Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The First Date (2.01)

NBC Synopsis: SEASON PREMIERE–Academy Award nominee Michael Clarke Duncan (“The Green Mile”) guest-stars as Colt, a menacing operative. Chuck (Zachary Levi) prevents Colt from obtaining the Cipher — a device that would ultimately lead to a new Intersect. Chuck is told that this successful mission marks the end of his espionage career and the beginning of a normal life. Free from bullets and bombs, Chuck finally asks Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) out on a real first date. But Chuck’s role as the old Intersect is not good news for everyone as Casey (Adam Baldwin) deals with a difficult order assigned to him. Meanwhile at Buy More, Morgan (Joshua Gomez) devises an eccentric way to hire a new assistant manager.

Chuck This Ranking:  3
Dave’s Ranking: Really good, maybe not quite that good.

Full Write Ups: Chuck vs The First Date (2.01) by Dave and Joe.
Summertime Top Ten: Chuck Versus The First Date by Ernie.

Other Write Ups: Reader’s Digest Re-Watch: Make-up Then Break-up Arc by Dave.

~ Dave   


About atcDave

I'm 54 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 31 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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31 Responses to Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The First Date (2.01)

  1. authorguy says:

    My favorite episode by far. Even if it was an accident, this is a great season opener. Chuck seizing the reins of his destiny, becoming an active participant in his spy life, rather than just an asset, dragged into danger. Sarah’s battle with Colt on the roof. Sarah didn’t see Carmichael, Chuck didn’t see the battle. How much faster would their relationship have progressed if they had both known?
    The only downside is the termination order never being explained or dealt with. It just sort of vanished. Fortunately there are many fictions that take up the issue. And the Cypher? Didn’t the CIA know enough to test a piece of hardware that had been in enemy hands?

  2. carrol.chuck.fan says:

    This is such a fun episode. The music is great during the getting-ready montage, Chuck assumes his Charles Carmichael persona so nicely in the scene with Colt and his men, the sparks are flying during Chuck and Sarah’s second first date. I also enjoy Casey struggling with the kill order throughout. When he finally sneaks into Chuck’s apartment late in the episode, he is taking so much time to set up his shot, I don’t think he is really able to take it at all. He also cannot bear for Chuck to know he is there – pulling back when Chuck looks over at the squeaking floor. Casey and Sarah are both already so compromised when it comes to Chuck at this point. A great start to a great Season.

  3. Wilf says:

    It’s definitely one of my top episodes. Like Authorguy, I’m sorry, though, that they never discussed further the kill order, as I think that could have made a really good scene.

    • authorguy says:

      There are several fan fictions that have dealt with the subject recently. In one Casey says he planned it so late in order to give Sarah a chance to defend Chuck or avenge him. Probably just to ‘heavy’ a topic for a comedy show (which, if you ask me, is precisely where heavy topics should be handled). MASH had no problem with serious topics.

      • atcDave says:

        I think it could have been dealt with, without getting too heavy. In fact, I think a couple of those fan fictions do a very credible job of it; “What do You Want?” particularly manages to be fun and humorous while dealing with it (I love the president asking Chuck how he can make the injustice right; Chuck suggesting he just wants Sarah; and the president objecting to pimping out agents. Too funny!) It is a pity they decided to draw out wt/wt instead of exploring some of the really interesting and fun possibilities the show presented.
        But yes, MASH is an excellent bad example, we can all be thankful Chuck never went the pretentious self-important route!

      • authorguy says:

        That’s one of my favorites, although I had a different one in mind, where Casey set himself up for possible vengeance by Sarah, called Chuck Takes A Stand. Agent-in-Waiting has a wonderful story, Chuck vs Pillow Talk, where Sarah finds out about the kill order much later. I was very conflicted when I wrote When Ellie Found Out, about whether to have Casey ‘fess up to that act to Ellie. Ultimately I decided not to (for Ellie’s sake, not his), but his ultimate declaration to Beckman is probably the darkest of all the possible outcomes.
        Nor would they have needed a whole episode, necessarily. They could have dealt with it as part of a larger adventure, maybe let Casey do something sacrificial to redeem himself. I just don’t think they were so arc-minded to worry about that stuff. It was a plot device to generate angst and then they dropped it. Which was very unfortunate, since many of the things they came up with and used as one-offs were brilliant, and could have fueled an entire season, rather than the trite plot devices they went back to over and over.
        MASH did get pretentious toward the end but it had some brilliant episodes.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I agree with all of that, I’ve enjoyed every one of those stories.

        And of course you’re right about MASH. It started very well, and only became insufferable much later. But I think that’s the cautionary tale of a comedy trying to deal with too many serious issues. It so often feels false and preachy.

  4. anthropocene says:

    It’s noteworthy that over S2 circumstances with Fulcrum motivated Beckman to go from being ready to coldly dispatch Chuck to scheming to keep him Intersected and intact.

  5. resaw says:

    A great episode. This is one I never grow tired of. One of the things that struck me was how the news of the new computer intersect coming online affected each of the three members of Team Bartowski: Maybe it’s because I know what’s coming, but to me it appears as though Casey is not happy about this news because the kill order on Chuck is about to activated; Chuck appears overwhelmed and imagines that his future is full of promise; Sarah cannot quite restrain the sadness she feels that she will have to leave Chuck.

    When Sarah says to Chuck: “Anything you wanted you could have,” I wonder if she also thought to herself “Including me.”

    I’ve always loved the way Chuck has these eloquent statements at certain points in the series. His observations to Sarah about the “woman like you” is just great to listen to. And of course, it’s so much fun because Sarah invited him to speak freely, as it were, and when she heard it, she was enjoying it a great deal, too. Chuck’s words and Sarah’s face are a one-two combination that cannot be beat! That tantalizingly close to being a real kiss scene, diverted by Chuck flashing on Colt’s minions, remains a disappointment for me. I’ve watched it multiple times, and every time it catches me hoping to see them really get all the way there.

    I have nothing to add to the trojan horse Intersect cipher (cypher?) / aborted kill order so I’ll just say that I liked a lot of the Buy More stuff in this episode. The asst mgr job interviews were hilarious and the delegation of the decision-making to Morgan was brilliant. I liked Morgan’s own disavowal of interest in the job: “A promotion at this point would destroy all my hard work.” And then there was that last scene where even Casey, who initially treats the imbecilic behaviour of the Buy-Morons as worthy of nothing but disdain, finds the Twinkie challenge of interest because of Morgan shouting off-screen, “Jeff might die.” For all his aloof gruffness, Casey is becoming acculturated to Buy-Moria.

    A great episode at the beginning of a great season.

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah I agree with all of that Resaw.
      I always figure Sarah didn’t consciously mean the “anything you want” to include her; but maybe somewhere, in the back of her mind, she’s thinking “just ask…”

  6. noblz says:

    This episode is near the top of my top ten list (of 29 episodes).

    This had everything you want. Real romance and a real date. Chuck’s near death experience and Sarah’s visceral reaction to it. The way she screamed then threw herself on Colt was, next to the restaurant scene, my favorite part of the episode.

    This was great tv, something we don’t see much of nowadays.

    OBTW in an aside, Fedak and Klemmer wrote the last two episodes of Forever.

    • atcDave says:

      I agree with all of that Noblz. This is definitely on my lengthy “top ten” list.

      And I was pleasantly surprised at that last epsiode CF wrote of Forever, it was absolutely not what I expected from him. And I mean that in a good way.

    • carrol.chuck.fan says:

      I have been quite enjoying Forever. It is pretty entertaining, and I like the relationship between Henry and Abe. I do wish they would flesh out the Jo character a little more, but perhaps that is coming down the road. I had not noticed Fedak was a writer on the last two episodes. I will have to pay more attention to the credits! Speaking of new shows, has anyone been trying to catch “Scorpion?” Folks here have mentioned it in the past, but I was not sure what anyone thought about the actual show.

      • DKD says:

        Liked the pilot of Scorpion, but the rest is on my DVR waiting for me to catch up. While Matt Miller is behind Forever, Nicholas Wootten is an EP on Scorpion. Lots of Chuck alums getting work these days.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I’ve liked “Forever” a lot. I agree completely about the Henry/Abe relationship, intersting and a bit painful. I’m sure the rest of the characters will develop more in time. I do have some concern about how long the tone will stay so mellencholly. I mean, it’s natural and fitting for now. But that gets old fast. I hope we see more hope and joy, especially for the main characters. How well the characters grow and relationships progress will determine if this show remains at the top of my list for long.

        Scorpion is, well, okay. I found the Pilot painful. Of course being in the aviation industry often leaves me cringing when television touches on aviation themes, and Scorpion handled worse than most. This whole idea that without air traffic control and modern NavAids every aircraft in the sky is doomed is just painfully stupid.
        But I found the characters mostly likable, and on that strength alone I’ve continued to watch. I think the show has gotten a little better. Or it may just be less cringeworthy as its gone with themes other than aviation.
        I do think a sort of fundemental problem for a show about a team of geniuses, is that by and large, television writers are not geniuses. So it’s hard to be dazzled with a 190 IQ genius written by a 100 IQ show runner.
        But the characters themselves continue to be interesting and well written. So it stays on our “to do” list for now.

      • oldresorter says:

        Carrol.chuck.fan – I watch both. Both are solid shows. Scorpion is much less subtle than Forever so far, even though Fedak writes for Forever, Scorpion feels much more like Chuck. But both have things in common with Chuck, most notably, the leading man in Forever just wants to be normal while Sorpion feels like a network exec said write me the next ‘Chuck’, the likeness is pretty overt. It’s also interesting that the WT/WT is not subtle at all in Scorpion, but is in Forever. The leads probably could stay apart in Forever for the entire show and I’d be OK, they both have good reasons to stay away from each other and neither shows obvious signs they want to couple up. AFter going thru all the angst I felt toward the show Chuck, I like shows were the wt/wt is more subdued, deeper, harder to read, less something that the show needs to be a success for me. Still, I’d be most pleased if both stay shows stay on the air long term and both are worth a peak.

      • atcDave says:

        I don’t know OR, I think Forever is far more Chuck-like than Scorpion. And it’s precisely because of how believable and relatable the main characters are. It has more of a human touch, while Scorpion is more TV paint by numbers. And to me, that humanness is exactly what made Chuck special.

      • carrol.chuck.fan says:

        Thanks for the comments everyone. I may check out Scorpion at some point for fun, but it does not necessarily sound like a must-see show. Not sure how they are going to handle the wt/wt on Forever at this point. There seems to be some spark between the two leads, but she is still obviously not over the death of her husband or he over the loss of his wife. I agree with Dave that the characters are nicely relatable at this point in time. That is probably why it has been so enjoyable. I think the actor who plays the assistant is also a friend of Zachary Levi’s – another Chuck connection. And I am interested to see how Jo reacts to finding out Henry’s secret at some point in time. It is only a matter of time before he lets too much slip out, now that they are working together so often. If they do decide to go the romantic route, it would be nice to dispense with the angst and just watch it happen. But that is not usually the way TV likes to handle these sorts of relationships.

      • oldresorter says:

        Here is why I say Scorpion equals Chuck. The captain, Robert patrick, is a dead knock off of the Baldwin character, if you couldn’t get the real life Baldwin, he’d be your second choice, heck, he might be first.

        The lady is Chuck, normal. McPhee plays a great normal girl, as did Levi. The guy is 50% Chuck, 50% Sarah. Too good to be true, what is that word, a ‘Mary Anne’. But Levi could play him, they even look alike, don’t they?

        Then the three mates are the Buy Morons, more or less anna wu (the kick butt girl), jeff (the smart scared heavy set guy) and lester (the pick pocket gambler goof up smart mouth etc).

        They are making no bones about the attraction between the leads, making it over the top obvious, such that it will suck the life out of the show if they bring in LI’s or even PLI’s.

        Forever on the other hand, its pretty darned complicated. It’s growing on me. AT first, I hated the notion he was trying to die, but I now realize, he is really trying to be normal, to live out a normal life span. His dad / son / companion, Judd hirsch is just an awesome actor, and really helps. And the assistant from bones, Joel David Moore is a great supporting actor. The lady I don’t know, and she seems sort of unremarkable, but that might be a good thing for now.

        I think I’m a bad Chuck fan, as I don’t think Chuck’s characters are even remotely real like you said they felt like to you, they almost all seem like a parody of real in that way, even worse than Scorpion. But I do agree with you, Forever’s characters seems very real, and Scorpion’s do not, considering the non real premise behind the story of Forever. And Scorpion’s plots so far have been paint by the numbers. But I think I liked Chuck most when it was paint by the numbers too. So I like that aspect of Scorpion.

        Anyhow, I’m glad they both are on.

      • resaw says:

        To each their own, I suppose. There’s only so much TV I can watch, and I’ve decided I can let Scorpion go after watching a couple of the episodes. Forever, however, holds my interest. I find the characters sympathetic in Forever, and the whole immortality thing is as intriguing a sci-fi-ish theme as was the superintelligence of Chuck. Scorpion is supposed to be based on the life of Walter O’Brien (the lead character), but there are some suggestions that O’Brien, who is a consultant for the show, has provided a rather embellished biography. Certainly, I don’t find any of the characters particularly likeable.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah Carrol the whole idea of how Jo is going to learn Henry’s story is rich. That may be the single most engaging hook of the story for me. I hope they don’t have him die/disappear in front of her though, at least not as the big reveal. It needs to be something more substantive, related to his life experiences and lost love. And I must admit, it’s that exact part of the Fedak connection that makes me VERY nervous. I have little confidence in his ability to handle that part of the story well. Like Chuck, he has a good cast, with good back story and good chemistry. In the end, I feel like that’s pretty much all we had with Chuck. Pretty much everything related to the crucial “coming together” act of the story was badly botched. So I’m very concerned about how Forever will play.
        Now on the plus side, Fedak is not the show runner this time. I HOPE Matt Miller will not repeat Fedak’s mistakes. We will see.
        Now also, like Chuck, there are some compelling sub-stories that add interest too. So even if the “big moment” is cheesy or stupid, there are enough other details that may keep the show fun regardless.

        OR I wouldn’t say that makes you a “bad Chuck fan!” But no doubt you see it very differently than I do. I might even agree with calling all the secondary characters types and devices; but Chuck and Sarah always felt real to me. That was the heart of the show, and that’s why it still resonates.

        Resaw we aren’t that different on Scorpion! Although we are still watching it, it is easily the most expendable show we haven’t dropped yet. Basically, if it ever conflicts with anything, it’s gone.

      • oldresorter says:

        Dave this interview really hits on so many issues regarding TV, but in particular, right around the 2:10 mark it starts, and at 2:35 he says words that are worth hearing, I think Lear hits on the magic of Chuck that I have tried to express here many a time, i.e. ‘Why did Chuck get to me the way it did?’ The interesting thing, we were talking about characters being real, in many way, Archie, Edith, Meat Head and Gloria were completely parodies, and the show was goofy and off beat and funny, yet the show really did did into some pretty serious topics, and America loved the show for the characters.


      • authorguy says:

        You guys talked me into it. I’m catching up on Forever right now, watching the episodes on ABC,com. Interesting concept. I love both Highlander (an immortal man in the modern world) and Unbreakable (Two men with curses that bind them together).

      • atcDave says:

        OR there is some great stuff there. No doubt, to me, comedy is generally far more powerful than drama.
        But again, Chuck and Sarah stood out for being real in a crazy world, and that was the balance that made the show both fun and powerful to me.

  7. Martin Traynor says:

    I, too, am watching both Forever and Scorpion, and like them both. And, coincidentally, they both remind me a bit of Chuck and another favorite – Castle. I noticed that Rafe Judkins is a writer on Agents of Shield, which has gotten better since the first half of last year (I enjoy that show, too, and feel it found its rhythm in the back half, to back quarter, of season 1).

    But still, nothing compares to Chuck. My wife has been re-watching and burned – I mean burned – through season 2. She must’ve watched 6 eps. a day! And we watched with her when we got the chance. She’s now to season three, and I’m curious to see how she re-watches that for the first time. I advised that I would consider skipping episodes, but then realized that she wasn’t quite as affected by the spell that was Chuck/Sarah as I was. But then again, she took the series finale much harder than I did. She has little to no patience for stupidity in character behavior (Sarah putting on the Intersect glasses) or stupid writing (Sarah losing her memories, wiping out five years of character development, and leaving us unsure as to what happens next).

    As an aside, the entire family now has at least one pair of Converse All-Stars…inspired by Chuck. The boy has the same Chuck Taylors as our hero…Ah, it does a pappa proud!

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah I agree with almost all of that Martin. Agents of SHIELD started slow, but I think it’s pretty good now.
      We had the same thing in our home, where I was far more enthused with the show, with Charah in particular, than my wife ever was. But we mostly saw eye to eye on the good and bad of things, until the ending. My wife was far more enthusiastic about that end scene than I was.

  8. Martin Traynor says:

    Its funny, but even though I’m far more invested emotionally in the show, and the C/S relationship in particular, my wife seems to take the ending far worse than anything. I struggle more with Cole and Shaw. For some reason, I really, really don’t like the whole Cole arc. I think it’s because, though he is a gentleman, he is unctuous, and I just can’t believe that Sarah, who has feelings for the real person that Chuck is, can have feelings for Cole, who is really pretty superficial. I’m sure he can run deep, but I don’t think he really shows that to Sarah at all. He’s pretty much a player who is after the big score that Sarah is.

    To contradict everything everyone else seems to be saying, I am glad that Shaw as a character was pretty flat, as was the actor. Anyone that would have been more likable to me would have made Sarah’s attraction to him that much more painful, again, to me. Given that he was pretty weak, maybe I never felt like there was anything too solid or real there, at least for Sarah. If Shaw was more competition for Chuck, and I could see why she was with him, they would have had to come up with something even bigger and dumber than Sarah and Chuck breaking up for Sarah to go back to Chuck.

    As it is, Shaw sucked, and given that all Chuck had to do was basically claim her and she went back to him, and I’m happier than if Shaw had to go bad BEFORE Sarah chose Chuck. This way, we KNOW she wanted Chuck all along…

    • atcDave says:

      Cole didn’t bother me THAT much; in Beefcake I was more bothered by other things, like whiny and annoying Chuck. But then I never figured Sarah was actually interested, she was just distracted by a good looking guy at a time when she had no real commitments. I figured it was all worse in Chuck’s mind than anything that happened in reality.
      I sort of agree about Shaw. I find it amusing that people end up disliking that arc for a range of reasons. But it bothers me a lot that we’re supposed to believe Sarah was ever attracted to him when he came across as such a complete zero from the very start. But yeah, it is at least a small consolation that Sarah chose Chuck without even giving Shaw a second thought once she realized Chuck was still unchanged. No thanks to her (now THAT’s the part that really works me up!)

  9. Justin G says:

    Finished them all at last, having watched the entire 5 series over the last two months. Some things bugged me in the fifth season, that didn’t make much sense. But finally in the end when Sarah lost her memory, it brought back how good she was acting her role in the first place, spy first above everything else. And the thawing of that character, that made the show such a hook for me.

    Its always a but of a downer when you finish an enjoyable series, Dexter led me to Chuck, Chuck also got me watching Firefly (liked that a lot) and have also watched the first two episodes of Castle (which seems a bit weak in comparison).

    I may go back and watch the Chuck 1 and 2 after a little break but if anyone wants to recommend anything else that might fill the void it would be appreciated 🙂

    • duckman says:

      I liked Royal Pains. Reasonably intelligent, mildly funny, some mostly believable drama and romance. They get pretty annoying and lazy with the wt/wt, but that’s pretty much the norm it seems.

  10. Martin Traynor says:

    I don’t anything will fill the void, but “Psych” is a fun show with some great characters, character interaction and a real sense of team (a la “Chuck”). I love “Castle” the early years. It seems to get flatter each year, and though I love Castle and Kate together, I think the produces and writers are missing a gold mine of topics to go after. They could be SO much more fun together than they are right now.

    For fantastic drama plus a little angst, “Arrow” is great. Not much humor, but the stories are solid, the drama organic (sorry to use such a cliche) and the relationships are complex. Again, great team interplay.

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