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Two-Buck Chuck: The Days of Wine and Roses on Chuck

Proposals are funny things.

Pull off an entirely romantic marriage offer and you have a story that you'll be telling your grandchildren in years to come. Fail and it could be, for Sarah's parents, emblematic of everything that went wrong with their relationship.

But whether it's an Italian restaurant, or the balcony of a posh French chateau, what really matters is the moment itself, something that Chuck finally grasps at the end of this week's sweet and funny episode ("Chuck Versus the Balcony"), written by Max Denby and directed by Jay Chandrasekhar. It's more about seizing the moment with the one you love than it is about balloons, string quartets, or carriages.

Unfortunately, Chuck realizes this lesson too late. In true Chuck fashion, the course of true love never did run smooth and Chuck and his lady love, Sarah Walker, find themselves on opposite trajectories. As Chuck prepares to spend his life with Sarah, she's engaged on a dangerous mission, posing as a double agent in order to free Chuck's mom from the dastardly Alexei Volkoff.

For all of Chuck's planning, his "sub-mission" fails to take off due to external circumstances beyond his control... and some internal ones as well. Unable to propose until he encounters the ideal situation, Chuck misses his chance to ask Sarah to marry him, as he's twice interrupted in pursuit of his marital goal.

I'm glad that the writers opted to paint Chuck as extremely nervous about proposing to Sarah. Despite the fact that the two have saved the world (and each other) on numerous occasions, there's still something life-altering and tremendous about making a marriage proposal. Chuck's Intersect-like abilities don't seem to include getting down on one knee among its mind-arsenal of fighting styles. For all of his superheroics, Chuck is still an Everyman and there are few things more terrifying than proposing. (Even I found myself flustered when it came time for it, after being with my future wife for years and years.)

Chuck's nervousness and his belief that the moment needed to be absolutely perfect point towards his good heart and his love for Sarah. Hoping to avoid the awfulness of her parents' proposal (aside: do we know anything about her mother?), Chuck wants to avoid the cliche, over-the-top excess that marred Sarah's father's proposal. (Along with a restaurant carpet fire.) But it true Chuck style, our everyman spy has drafted Morgan into a sub-mission to pull off a most romantic moment with his girlfriend... who herself quickly finds out just what is going on.

The tension of the mission--involving a missing nanochip secreted at a chateau in the Loire Valley--is nicely paralleled by the tension of Chuck's side mission... and it was fantastic to see Sarah not go into a tailspin about the imminent proposal (and the long-term relationship implicit with it) but rather express her excitement, and help out to ensure that the proposal went smoothly. (Nice save with the ring box, S.)

But Sarah is also a covert agent in the employ of the United States government. Her desire for a happy, well-adjusted life are secondary to their orders... and I truly believe that she thinks she is helping Chuck by going undercover at Volkoff Industries in order to free Frost. But Sarah's desire to reunite Chuck with his mom have put their future happiness on hold altogether. Unable to even finish proposing to Sarah in her cell at Castle, Chuck is shocked to learn that she's posing as a double agent in order to do her job and to get Mary back to safety.

History, as they say, has a way of repeating itself. Mary's clandestine mission destroyed her marriage to Stephen, and Sarah's decision to follow in her footsteps don't bode well for her prospects with Chuck. She's chosen professional duty over personal desire, once again. Chuck's bended-knee proposal may go horribly awry, but it's the horror of learning what Sarah has accepted to do that's truly shocking for him.

I don't doubt that these two will eventually make it down the aisle together (season finale, anyone?), but I have to commend the writers for puncturing our expectations here. While it seemed as though the episode was finally building up to an engagement (or at the very least, the proposal), the rug is yanked out from under our feet just as much as it is Chuck's.

All in all, "Chuck Versus the Balcony" managed to pull off a delightly combination of heart and humor, something that the best installments of Chuck have in abundance, and created a nicely parallel storyline for Lester at the Buy More, as he prepared to meet his Saskatchewan bride. Issues of marriage, morality, and mothers all coming together to create a winning episode here that wore its heart on its sleeve.

But I'm curious to know what you thought of the episode: did you think Chuck would pull off a perfect proposal in the end? Think Sarah would accept in the cell? Wondering just why she's putting her life in danger to save Chuck's mom? Head to the comments section to discuss.

Next week on Chuck ("Chuck vs. the Gobbler"), in a bid to free Chuck's mom, Sarah goes undercover on a suicide mission for Volkoff industries; Awesome and Ellie struggle to choose a baby name.


Anonymous said…
I thought the writers tottaly bombed this episode. Why did they have sarah go behind chucks back to contact bechman and lie to him? Chuck should have ($%^& %^&)
Wes said…
@Anonymous: Because it's a serialized drama and the writers aren't going to make things easy for Chuck? I loved this ep.
Razorback said…
Loved the episode. I think you will soon receive a lot of complaints from unstable people but those of us not totally insane had a blast.
Mazza said…
I might be in the minority but I loved this episode too for all the reasons you said. I'm happy the writers didn't shove them together but gave us some REAL reasons why they were splitting them up again. Not forever people! (Magnus, you're right about the crazies. I think they'll be showing up here soon.)
YC19916 said…
i really liked the episode, although i don't think a holding cell in a CIA substation is the right place for our spy couple to get engaged. I think Sarah's mission could continue for the rest of the season and in the end when they are reunited they will have their sunset.
Ian said…
Loved the ep, although as soon as Lester got shot down (in a blaze of glory?) I knew Chuck's proposal would go all wrong too. Also, best use of Casey in about 2 seasons with the manservant thing and then him and Morgan teaming up to play Cyrano.
uplink said…
Loved it as well. It was heartwarming and even though I expected it to be stopped at the moment it was, this is Chuck afterall, I am totally fine with it because it set up a fantastic scene with Casey and Chuck and sets up the next 2 episodes perfectly. I'm also ok with it because I know it will happen, 4.13 I believe, and it was a real issue based on love that caused it, not phony angst that we saw way too much of in the past. I know Sarah's reasons and I applaud her for doing it. It will make for a very sweet, and special moment when it does happen.
Burkey said…
@ Anonymous, because Sarah didn't go behind Chuck's back or lie to him. She didn't know she would be a "double agent" until after she got arrested. Watch the episode again.
Kyle Garret said…
I had a few problems with this episode. Sarah might not have known she was going to be a double agent, but why didn't Chuck go to Beckman as soon as they got back? That would have been the first thing he did, or at least the first thing he said to her when he saw her. The fact that he didn't was forced.
And speaking of forced, there is no logical reason that Volkoff would ever believe that Sarah has switched sides. He would never take her in, with or without a test to prove she's really gone bad. This guy has an air tight organization -- he wouldn't take a chance on Chuck's girlfriend.
But, as they've done all season, they needed to complicate the engagement in some way, so this is what they came up with, regardless of whether it makes sense or not. And that's my problem with this season: it's all about whether or not they get engaged. Aside from the fact that we saw all of 8 episodes with them together before this came up, whether or not Chuck pops the question isn't a particularly dramatic issue. Yet everything goes towards that story. Now even the Frost storyline is involved.
I know they wanted to create drama for Sarah and Chuck and I know the initial order only being 13 episodes forced them to bring up the engagement sooner than was perhaps natural, but there's no real importance in that story. What's the worst that happens, they don't get engaged? *gasp*
I love Chuck, but I would really like to see them step up their game and make me feel like I did before -- like anything could happen at any time.
GAP said…
The episode was a little dull in the storyline, with sprinkles of good comedy and a dash of heart-filled moments. Looks like the Volkof story is hanging from a thread, quite dangerously. Hopefully, it will be turned around nicelly into something smart or at least interesting in the next two episodes.
Jayne said…
Sarah didn't choose Beckman over Chuck. She chose Chuck over chuck. She told Beckman in the beginning of the episode that she would do whatever it took to bring back his mother, so she's choosing Chuck's happiness over her own.

Not Beckmans. :P And I like that its connecting the beginning of the episode to the end.
Anonymous said…
I agree with most of what you saying The exception is that I don't think Sarah leaving is to follow orders but to do this for Chuck and her as well. The end of leftovers Sarah realized (said it) the team Ellie and her relationship with Chuck was never more vulnerable as long as Volkoff remains a threat her chance of having a relationship with Chuck and being a part of his family were a serious risk. I don't think she planned to leave till after Beckman explained her plan

Unknown said…
Awesome episode! I backed up to see a couple of scenes again and I couldn't bear to delete it from my media server when it was over. From Sarah flipping Morgan ("... and for me") to Casey's "I'm a spy, not an idiot," this episode was as flawless as they come. Action, humor, poignancy--it had it all.

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