One idea many Chuck fans, and fan fiction writers, have kicked around at length is starting a much earlier romance for the central couple of the show.
This idea is not necessarily meant to be critical of the canon story decisions, but just to see what could have happened if some different decisions had been made, or different situations developed in the first seasons of the show.
After the jump, Charah at an early date.
This idea was proposed by long time reader Justin during our Beefcake discussion. This may have a lot of overlap with our broader S1/S2 Alternatives post from a few months back. But I’ll focus in specifically on those moments in the show, crisis points perhaps, when we can easily imagine things getting off to a faster start.
I’ll start with Sarah’s later claim that she fell for Chuck between fixing her cell phone and diffusing a bomb. Not to say Sarah “falling for” Chuck means she’s ready to violate her professional ethics and run off with her asset. But what if…
Its hard for me to think about this without bunker or kill orders being in the mix. I have no doubt, even at the end of the Pilot, Sarah would have done right by Chuck if she’d known a kill order was a possibility. But I have talked about that more at length already. So I will try to consider this time only from an internal issues perspective.
Could a romance have started early without a big event? Its a little hard for me to imagine. I suppose the earliest I could see anything happening is during the Season One soap opera arc. I have no doubt both characters are honestly interested at this point, but Sarah in particular does have a lot of baggage! I think she would have seen getting involved with Chuck as professional failure. Maybe if Chuck had asked a better question while she was under the influence of Pentathol; more like “do you want anything more for us?” She might not have been able to twist that one around as much (I maintain a big part of resisting the Pentathol was answering what she believed, not what she wanted). But apart from shutting down Lou before it happened, I’m not sure it would have changed much else. But maybe, just maybe, if Bryce didn’t show up and confuse things, Sarah would have come to a different conclusion while wrestling with “do you ever want anything more?”
I think the next big possibility for this kind of moment is the end of Break Up. This I can see unfolding a little differently quite easily. This would start with Sarah speaking first at the fountain. I don’t think she was about to break all her rules just yet. But maybe she would have admitted to Chuck that she liked him. And that might have included mentioning how much she liked their “cover” situation. I think a suggestion like that might have just led to a more comfortable situation between them for the rest of the season. This might have meant Chuck resists Jill’s charms a little better too.
DeLorean and Santa Claus are another two episodes with Charah in a comfortable place. Its not hard for me to imagine if Chuck and Sarah had actually discussed the Mauser shooting right away, like especially if they were already more friendly from back at Break Up, this might have led to a very warm “under the cover” situation. In fact, I’d say the only question is, how strong is Sarah’s professionalism? That alone could be the only thing keeping this from being a “real” relationship, even with very minimal changes to the story.
And then I would say a very early “do you love me?” moment could come pretty naturally at the end of Broken Heart. The last scene with General Beckman could easily be construed as tacit approval for a covert romance. So maybe that question comes up as Chuck is struggling with if Sarah would have actually left him if she were reassigned. Sarah affirming that she does love him would have led to a slightly different rest of the season, and a very different Season Three.
I actually could post a very long list here. But I’m going to try to pick some stories that avoid obvious big crisis points, and flow more naturally out of the general situation of the first two seasons.
KateMcK is always a great starting point for these sort of discussions. She likes starting close to canon before she sends things careening off in new directions. Specific to this topic she’s taken two stabs at it. “Sarah vs Covers, Lies and Ticking Time Bombs” has romance developing during Season One; while “A Common Spy Problem” does the same for Season Two. The second is not technically done, but I think its as done as its going to get, and it does go far enough to settle the most obvious issues.
“Chuck vs The Campaign” by ERSK4 is another favorite that does this pretty painlessly. It picks up right at the end of the Jill arc. I usually describe this as the best sort of pure fluff piece. It is just fun to watch Chuck and Sarah grow closer as friends, all while wondering what it will take to get them (mainly Chuck) to wake up!
For some odd reason, we wound up with a number of Season Two alternatives this last summer. First was “What Would You Like” by Stars90. This story is sweet, and makes me laugh, hard! Its after Chuck saves the world from World War III at the end of Tom Sawyer. When the president calls to congratulate Team B, including Chuck, it sort of, accidentally comes out that Casey was ordered to kill Chuck not so long ago…
“Chuck Takes a Stand” by Nomadic Nerd also starts after Tom Sawyer. It also starts with the same revelation. But this time it comes via an Intersect update that includes a little more data than Chuck probably really needed to know. And it features a thermonuclear explosion… when Sarah finds out about said order. This story is not actually done yet and is proceeding slowly. But its already a ton of fun.
“Fixing Broken” by nerdtastic78 starts at about this same time. But this time it focuses more on Chuck’s general weariness with the spy life, and how Sarah sets out to fix him. And no, its not really a smut piece (!).
I think that’s enough examples for now. No doubt many fans have envisioned how things could have moved along fast than canon.
For my own speculation above I tried to limit myself to internal barrier sort of issues, purely because I’ve previously discussed the external issues and crisis points at length. But I place no such restrictions on anyone else. So what do you all think of the possibilities? What are the most likely places a real Charah could have occurred in those first two seasons? And would what have been the fall out?
My final thought on all this would be such changes really might not have been for the best. Although you all know I require changes to enjoy the later the seasons of the show, I truly cannot stomach parts of canon; but I think a lot of the tension and angst of the first two seasons actually strengthened my attachment to the characters and show. If S3 is re-written, “take off your watch” goes down as one of the most perfect moments in television in history. But if S1 or S2 is softened too much it could weaken the whole effect. Maybe not to such a dire degree. A more agreeable and happy Chuck and Sarah, for an even longer part of the story, would have likely left me loving Chuck as one of the greatest shows ever. But more as a warm and fuzzy feel good thing, without the power and consequence it had in those first two seasons.
If I could really change the show I would make mostly small tweaks up until “I know Kung Fu”. I would look at a few things that make Chuck look foolish or Sarah look harsh. I might reduce some Buy More scenes and add Sarah in to more of the friends and family scenes. I think. But variations are always fun to consider! And I’m eager to hear what readers think.