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Chuck vs. the Beefcake (S2, E15)

Just past the mid-point of season two, this episode of CHUCK further explains the gap that is between Chuck and Sarah. Convinced there will never be a "real" relationship between them, Chuck is contemplating breaking up with Sarah yet again. When he approaches her about the subject she busies herself with "work" at the Orange Orange yogurt front, but her annoyance is obvious. Chuck pushes further, half asking, half declaring, "We'll never really be together." Not answering, Sarah's face grows even more serious. Taking her lack of an answer as agreement, Chuck acts deflated and accepts they are better as friends. But it is Sarah who is visibly shaken and the viewer can see her disappointment. She weakly asks Chuck, "Is that what you really want?" And when he answers that it is, Sarah's only choice is to turn away to hide her pain. This episode is an important one because it shows just how hard Sarah is working to hide her feelings for Chuck. Believing they are unable to be together because of the spy life, Sarah is nobly trying to step aside. At first glance Chuck's doubt of Sarah's feelings seems out of place, but it shows just how damaging Sarah's lie to him about Fulcrum Agent Mauser has been. Three episodes earlier Sarah lied about killing Mauser and Chuck has internalized her deception as a lack of trust. Despite all that has happened so far between them, Chuck is now certain Sarah is capable of lying to him about anything, including her feelings about him. He listens to her get physical with Agent Cole Barker as part of her cover and we can see the doubts in Chuck's expression. Even though they have shared several passionate kisses, most notably at Roan Montgomery's request, Chuck now doubts the passion he has felt from Sarah is real. Yet in reality, it is Sarah who is struggling to not act on her feelings for Chuck. By now Sarah knows she's in love with our nerdy hero. What she doesn't know is how to deal with her feelings.

Enter MI-6 Agent Cole Barker for a brief, yet revealing, love-triangle. Cole is handsome, brave, fearless, noble, and very interested in acting on his feelings toward Sarah. Chuck has "ended" his fake relationship with Sarah at Ellie's suggesting and is now competing for Sarah's affections with someone who is everything he considers himself not to be. The torture scene places Sarah directly in the middle between Cole and Chuck, Cole beaten and brave to her right, Chuck cowardly and scared on her left. Both men try to claim they are the Intersect to save Sarah from Alexis White and her deadly injection, but it is Cole who is ultimately comforted by Sarah after Casey saves the day. (Alexis White is played by Rom Com star Katrina Law). Toward the end of the episode the emotional wall Sarah hides behind is again let down. While in Castle Sarah congratulates Chuck for being able to endure torture. Her role as Handler is securely in place, acting as a proud parent or teacher toward her prodigy. Chuck makes a remark about his toes and torture and Sarah takes the opportunity to share an intimate, personal moment. She says, "You've had a lot of practice enduring torture...with our fake relationship." After a moment more she tells Chuck, "Well, even though it wasn't real...I'm really going to miss it." The moment is interrupted by Cole, but we can see Sarah is now unable to maintain her Handler demeanor. She easily slips from professional to personal, wanting Chuck to know she laments him thinking their relationship is ending. The war within her rages on, Sarah trying to find a balance between what she wants and what she knows she needs to do.

When Cole asks Sarah to go on vacation with him, we can see her contemplation. Cole is incredibly sexy and fully-engaged, a man of action. He's a man she respects and admires. We learn later with Shaw that Sarah has a "type" and Cole would definitely fit her preferences. Yet Sarah declines. Their kiss is passionate, and Sarah's attraction to Cole is evident in the exchange, but her heart is already promised somewhere else.

Two of the Series' over-all themes are expressed numerous times in this episode. The first is "Don't be a hero, Chuck" and the second is "Everyone talks." Chuck's journey is from an underachieving nerd who works at the Buy More to a world-class spy and valuable asset. In his own mind it is his quest to become a hero, and he often expresses to Sarah how he wishes others knew of his bravery and achievements. Sarah has told Chuck many times that he is a hero and that she knows that he is. But the truth is she doesn't need him to be a typical hero, brave and fearless. In fairy tales the fair maiden seeks a Prince or hero to love and save her. In the series CHUCK, Sarah is the hero and Chuck the pure and honest one seeking true love. Throughout the series we learn time and time again that the thing Sarah loves most about Chuck is his good heart and the essence of who he is. In her eyes he has always been a hero, her personal hero, saving her from a life of emotional barrenness. The very last thing Sarah wants is for Chuck to be a hero like Cole Barker, Bryce Larkin, or Daniel Shaw and this episode gives her the chance to choose, and she chooses Chuck. The other theme of this episode, everyone talks, foreshadows much for the remaining seasons. Over time everyone in their lives will reveal their true hearts, including our two heroes, Sarah and Chuck.


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