‘Everything you think and feel. Even your innate reflexes have to change.’
So Sarah and Shaw inform Chuck as he is prepped to take the place of hitman – Rafe(as wraith as in ghost) Gruber. Being a spy has a heavy price. Taking on the identity of another person is much more than that of merely playing a part. The immersion into a new persona has to be all encompassing. Your own identity has to be submerged. One slip could cost lives.
Do enough of these covers for long enough and you begin to lose who you really were. Or are. This is the subtext which runs through Chuck Vs The Fake Name. In this episode we are clearly shown the opposite paths that Chuck and Sarah are running on. Chuck is losing himself while Sarah is desperately trying to retain her identity. Something she was able to do when she had Chuck as her anchor.
‘I can pass for an cold blooded killer.’
For Chuck, the game is still so new and his desire to become a spy is so strong that he does not yet see the downside. He does not see that he is losing those intangibles that made him the person to whom Sarah was attracted to in the first place. Chuck is on so much of a tunnel vision express he cannot see how it is affecting his relationships with his family and friends.
All around Chuck are warning signs like the Ellie/Hannah encounter, the dinner he did not prepare, the lies he is telling to Hannah, his total ignorance of the state of his friendship with Morgan, and even the fact that he is dating Hannah, a civilian, in the first place. He is very much a person with blinders on. Unaware of the consequences that inevitably will arise.
‘The way he lies to Hannah. Lives are being affected.’
Sarah sees Chuck doing and saying things in the real and spy world that are stripping away the better parts of him. There is a price to these actions and we see one of the results when Chuck breaks up with Hannah. The hurt and the pain he has unwittingly inflicted on Hannah are the actions of a person that Chuck would have never sanctioned before. Now he has become that person and Hannah rightly calls him on it. He is no longer that nice guy.
‘I barely remember who I am anymore.’
For Sarah being an alias goes even further than that. She has been in the game for so long now that her grasp on who she is, is slipping away. Just the simple act of saying her real name now feels unnatural. When you reach that point the sense of loss must be great indeed. For names have power. Names are the tool by which people are identified.
With Chuck being so focused on becoming a spy, Sarah has lost the anchor she was using to cling onto. In a revelatory moment Chuck overhears Sarah telling Shaw all of this. It is a paralleling of Chuck’s speech to Sarah in the vault back in Chuck Vs The Three Words. If nothing else Shaw has become Sarah’s confidant. A sounding board for her concerns. With Shaw, Sarah has someone who can understand the issues that spies deal with when they are living the lie. They have both been there and back again. Chuck has not.
- Casey sniping the assassin with a tranq dart
- Chuck sliding down the Castle rail bringing donuts
- Chuck’s first crush Mrs. Seaver – the mom from Growing Pains
- Chuck flashing on Alex Coburn in regards to Casey – someone else with an alias?
- Casey’s urging Chuck on to torture him by taking out his tooth
- Chuck’s reaction to the torture tools – ‘Is this stuff sterile?’
- Casey telling Chuck how proud he is at Chuck’s ability to play the part
- Sarah’s cheese knife throw
- Hannah’s toast during dinner coupled with Sarah’s reaction to watching it
- gangsters voicing fan concerns and giving Chuck relationship advice
- Casey sniping the assassin for real; making the shot only 5 other people could do
- Chuck and Ellie talking as brother and sister
- Hannah calling Chuck on being a very good liar and not being a nice guy
- Sarah trying to create something real
This is a strong episode that features great performances by the leads. Zac kicked ass inhabiting the role of a hitman with zeal bringing menace and humor to the role. He was equally adroit at handling character moments most of which involved painful revelations. It was great to see Chuck and Ellie share a brother and sister moment again too.
Yvonne turned in another stand out performance and continues to express Sarah’s struggles not just in dialogue but through her amazing ability to emote through body language and facial cues.
Adam Baldwin was badass as Casey. Again. The revelation that he too has a potential alias will no doubt have payoff further along. The respect that John Casey has for Chuck’s abilities as a spy was most welcome to see.
The BuyMore stuff was a mixed bag. While Jeff and Lester being perplexed by Chuck’s prowness with the fairer sex is in line with their characters their use as a Greek Chorus to point out the magic of Chuck and Sarah’s relationship did not work for me. Those two are the BuyMore equivalent of snipers. Using them for them for meta statements was a choice due to the budget restrictions the show is under but that moment would have worked much better using Morgan and Big Mike instead. Or better yet, dropped altogether. In contrast, the use of the gangsters to discuss, ‘Will they? Won’t they?’ relationships and give Chuck relationship advice was a hoot and a humorous wink to the fans.
‘I thought you were a nice guy!’
Chuck has hit rock bottom. The pain he inflicted on Hannah and the revelations from Sarah have been a hard slap of reality. Chuck is positioned to find his way back. But what a difficult balancing act it will be to keep his identity and yet be able to function successfully in the spy world.
Ali Adler has written another great episode. Chuck and Sarah are struggling in unfamiliar territory. They are making mistakes and are searching to find the right answers. Never have the two of them been more vulnerable; more human; more real.
I love that.