A Fistful of Catch 22’s – Episode 3.11: Chuck Vs The Final Exam

Written by Zev Borow
Directed by Robert Duncan McNeil

‘Catch 22,’ a novel by Joseph Heller:
“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind.  Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions.”
‘I love irony.’
In 3.10, life changes were introduced for several of the cast members. This week those changes were explored in their various stages of progression for the three leads. Tied into those changes were barriers for each of the characters. In some cases the barriers are external. In others internal. In all cases there is a Catch 22 element to them. Damned if you do. Damned if you do not.
Catch 22 Scenario 1:
Chuck is convinced that in order for him to be together with Sarah, he has to become a spy. The catch? In order to become a spy, Sarah believes Chuck cannot accomplish that goal without losing the qualities that has endeared him to her in the first place. Those qualities are more than endearments. For Sarah they are lifelines to redemption as we later see.
Catch 22 Scenario 2:
This one is built on a false premise.
In order to be a spy, Chuck must pass the red test, which means he must kill. If he does not, Chuck goes back to his old life. This one has always struck a false note right from when it first arose back in 3.01. As long as Chuck has the Intersect, how can he go back to a normal life? It would be more plausible for him to go back to an asset status. Or bunkered. Maybe that is what the show means, but since they leave the details of what his old life are nebulous, the inference is that he will be a civilian. Which makes no sense if he still has the Intersect.

Trapped Within Their Own Perspectives

Catch 22 Scenario 3:
Chuck has become a spy dishonestly. With Casey taking the shot the cheat has worked in Chuck’s favour this time. In Stanford, the cheat cost Chuck his diploma. Ah yes, the smell of irony. The catch here is that Chuck cannot come clean for Casey is a civilian and what he did was murder. So Chuck’s hands are tied in being able to tell Sarah the very thing she needs to hear.
Catch 22 Scenario 4:
If Chuck passes his spy test, he gets everything he wants, except Sarah in his new assignment. If he fails he loses everything including, it is inferred, Sarah. What would anyone put the chances of Sarah resigning to stay with Chuck if he did fail though?
Some of these barriers do not bear up under examination but we must accept them for what they are. They are the factors being used to drive the actions of the characters. The main thing to take away is that for the story to continue the log jam has to be relieved. Which it looks like it will be in the next episode. With the relieving of these pressures, changes for the characters is inevitable.
Episode Flashes:

  • Beware blue bubble wrap envelopes! They bring ill tidings.
  • Casey finding his spy skills cannot be employed at the BuyMore
  • For the men – nice legs shot of Sarah
  • Chuck and his reaction to the spy test – #2 pencil and scantron!
  • Chuck’s new cover as a billionare in Rome – pretty sweet for a first gig
  • Chuck Bond! The Nerd is getting smoother all the time.
  • Chuck Stake Out Essentials with his own specialized case of champagne, Sizzling Shrimp and Stake Out play list amongst other items
  • Sarah’s twisty mouth ‘I shouldn’t be falling for this but I am,’ reaction
  • Private Eyes!
  • Chuck and Sarah showing the chemistry is still there in gobs during the stake out/date.
  • Sarah hiding behind binoculars as Chuck’s words get past her emotional defenses
  • ‘I can expense this, right?’
  • For the ladies – Chuck in a towel
  • One of the Russian baddies named Ivan Drago! Ala Rocky IV ‘I must break you.’
  • Chuck fighting in the Steam Room in TV version of Eastern Promises
  • Ka-kaw! Ka-kaw! Chuck bird call to help ID the CIA mole
  • ‘I am a spy!’ – cue shot of dropping towel – ‘I am a naked spy!’ – eat your heart out James Bond!
  • Chuck strutting in the OrangeOrange up to Sarah, ‘Hi there colleague!’
  • Chuck’s gift to Casey
  • Sarah having to deliver Chuck his final mission test – the red test
  • Washroom fight – Casino Royale style!
  • Chuck trying his best to bring the CIA mole in alive
  • Chuck unable to take the shot
  • Casey taking the shot
  • Sarah’s remorse and the intertwining of her feelings of her red test with those of being responsible for leading Chuck down the path to taking the red test

Zev Borrow has crafted an episode that seems very much like the launching pad for some major story threads in the next episode or two. All done with the trademark mix of humor, drama, action and comedy. Characters are being positioned to make irreversible choices. Once again, this has become a mantra, the three leads turn in strong performances. With Chuck we get the first glimpses of the spy he will be. Zac Levi’s merging of the Bondian aspects of the spy world with Chuck’s innate goodly goofy qualities is a treat to watch. Adam Baldwin’s turn as John Casey as a hair triggered weapon with no place in the so called real world of the BuyMore was fun. Finally there is Sarah’s back story reveal of her red test which explains much, if not all, of her behaviour this season and the series. Yvonne nails the turmoil and anguish of that moment and encapsulates Sarah’s behaviour since Prague.
‘It was the worst day of my life.’
With Sarah’s backstory reveal of her red test, the final piece of the puzzle for her seemingly inconsistent behaviour this season has been added. Not only is she struggling with dealing with real feelings for the first time in her life, Sarah is seeing a chance to reclaim a part of herself through Chuck slipping away. Sarah has been struggling with her identity, as has Chuck and Casey, all season. Meeting Chuck gave her an anchor upon which to re-establish whom she was. When Chuck decided to become a spy, Sarah lost that anchor and has been adrift ever since. Staying with Chuck and watching him evolve by incoporating the very things Sarah hates about the spy life has been torture for her. Worse because she feels responsible for tainting those rare qualities of truth and honesty that Chuck has. This explains her request for transfer and distancing herself from Chuck all season as that process fermented. Now, believing Chuck has killed and knowing the fallout from her red test, Sarah is at her lowest point.
Her statement of not loving Chuck is a sympton of pain but Chuck is not the source. Sarah is. It is herself that she loathes. Chuck represents her past. And her shame. When Chuck passed the red test it equated to a lost opportunity for Sarah. A chance that may never come again to, in some measure, redeem herself. This is a line in the sand moment. Not a reinforced bunker. Such lines can be crossed. Sometimes the person making them is begging for someone to cross them.
‘You’re not a killer Chuck.’

CleanUp Is Still Possible

Exciting times ahead. Sarah is about to discover that all is not lost through the actions and words of, not just Chuck, but Casey too. This is what we have been waiting for.
Payoff time!

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