A Deeper Look at Chuck Versus the Best Friend

Spoilers ahead If you have not seen this episode of ‘Chuck’

Chuck versus the Best Friend is the 14th episode of the second season of “Chuck” This episode is very underrated to me, If you ask most Chuck fans what their top 10 favorite episodes of Chuck are, this episode will rarely come up. I think a big part of that is because  the heart of this episode is driven by the friendship of Chuck and Morgan instead of the relationship of Chuck and Sarah. The friendship of Chuck/Morgan is equally important to the show and to who chuck is as a character and all of that was established in this episode.

This is one of the rare episodes of Season 2 in which “Fulcrum” the main villain organization of Season 2 does not appear, Instead the villains of this episode are the Chinese Triad and I think that made for a nice change of pace in the overall arc of season 2. This episode to me is a top 5 episode of the entire series. The themes of this episode: friendship, family, honesty and love are also the exact words to describe the series of “Chuck” as a whole, which makes this a classic Chuck episode in my opinion. I know not everyone will agree.

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This episode began with Morgan believing that Anna Wu is seeing a new guy so he recruits Jeff, Lester and Chuck to spy on Anna or as Morgan puts it: “Caring enough about someone to learn things about them that they won’t tell you themselves.” Chuck does not feel comfortable stalking another human being but when Morgan says he really needs Chuck’s help on this one, then Chuck agrees albeit reluctantly. There is a funny moment when Jeff, Lester and Morgan underestimate Chuck’s spy skills. Chuck: “What kind of mission?” Lester: “A spy mission, Charles.” Jeff: “Can you handle it?” Morgan: “You’d be there for moral support, you’re not skilled in spy-craft. That’s where Lester and Jeff come in.”

The conflict between Morgan and Anna in this episode draws from “Chuck versus the Santa Claus” when Morgan saw Anna kiss Lester, also in that episode Chuck saw Sarah kill  Mauser, which left Morgan and Chuck bonding over what they had just seen their girlfriends do. This is another example of how Chuck and Morgan are always there for each other through good times and bad. The strength on which their friendship is built on is tested in this episode.

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The way things ended in Chuck vs the Santa Claus for Morgan and Anna where Morgan saw Lester kiss her was supposed to lead into this episode where Morgan believes Anna is seeing another guy, and at the end of this episode where Morgan and Anna finally reconnect was supposed to lead to the Suburbs episode where it’s valentines day and Morgan and Anna are together. That results in a small continuity problem because NBC aired the Suburbs episode a week earlier than it was intended to coincide with Valentines Day while this episode aired after Suburbs when it was originally suppose to air before it. Moving back to this episode, when the Buy More guys were following Anna’s car and Sarah and Casey were following Chuck, Lester, Morgan and Jeff it made for a funny visual of the three cars following each other. Casey: “Idiots on the move.” This episode has a lot of humor in it and is one of the funniest of the season mostly because of Jeff and Lester (more on that later). What “Chuck” does so well is that it balances the humor while also making the relationships between all the characters feel genuine and that is why all Chuck fans fell in love with the show in the first place. Without caring for all of these characters we would not be so invested in the show like we have been and still are. This episode is a perfect example of making us care for the characters and the situations they find themselves in, specifically Chuck and Morgan.

Things got serious in the middle of the episode when Chuck had to save Morgan from the Chinese Triad when they caught him spying and the Triad thought he was spying on them and they didn’t know he was really spying on Anna. The Triad were about to kill Morgan if he didn’t tell them who he was but Chuck saved him by talking him up as a crazy stalker so that the Triad would think of Morgan as just a pathetic loser and a stalker rather than a spy who was spying on the Triad. In the process Chuck saved Morgan’s life but Morgan felt rejected and cast out by the one person he trusted his whole life.

Sarah: “Well, you just saved your best friend’s life.”

Chuck: “At the expense of his dignity.”

Sarah: “Well, at least he’s still breathing.”

Chuck’s intense loyalty to his friends and family continued to shine through his character as he was willing to do anything to protect his friend in that situation– even potentially making Morgan hate him forever. The acting between Zachary Levi and Joshua Gomez in this episode was fantastic as the usually comic banter between Chuck and Morgan was replaced with a more dramatic theme of friendship and Loyalty.

Morgan has a new attitude after this as he feels he needs to do things on his own from now on without Chuck watching over him.

Morgan: “How did you betraying me turn into you saving me?”

Morgan: “I can’t count on you to fix things my whole life.”

Chuck: “Of course you can.”

Morgan: “Look, It’s time for me to pay for my own mistakes, fight my own battles.”

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One of the best moments of the entire series in my opinion happened next when Chuck explained to Sarah how much Morgan means to him.

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Chuck: “I don’t have parents. I mean, not really. And I don’t talk about it because that’s just the way things are now. But it wasn’t always this way. Morgan was there the first day that my mom took off. He didn’t say much because, honestly, what is a fifth grader supposed to say? But we sat there and split a cherry cheesecake and played Legend of Zelda all night long. And my dad… well, that’s a whole… other story, but Morgan was there for that too. Morgan is more than just my best friend. He’s my family. Before you got here and long after you’ve gone, Morgan is my family.”

This episode of Chuck may not have had 3-D graphics or huge guest stars but it was the strongest episode of Chuck because it focused on the core relationships of the show. This was a more small scale episode of Chuck driven by all the characters that we know and love. This episode used almost all the cast in fun ways, like the beginning of Jeffster, Devon & Ellie planning for their wedding, Anna with her new boyfriend, Sarah thinking Chuck died in the explosion, Casey having some great funny lines, and Chuck and Morgan’s friendship becoming damaged. The only cast member that was not featured in the episode was Mark Christopher Lawrence as Big Mike. It was a nice change of pace for this season to have the mission of the week be exploring the friendship of Chuck and Morgan rather than an episode revolving around Fulcrum. The bro-mance moments between Chuck and Morgan in this episode were excellent and Zachary Levi and Joshua Gomez’s friendship in real life really showed here. For example:

Chuck: “Don’t you know who you are to me, what you mean to me, all that you’ve done?”

Morgan: “Think you could butch it up just a bit, bro?”

Though the heart of this episode was mostly driven by the friendship of Chuck and Morgan, Sarah was a big part of this episode also. The first great moment that Sarah had was the fight with Smooth Lau in the car which was one of the best action sequences this show has ever produced and showed how truly badass Sarah really is. Using all the elements of the car was pretty awesome as well – a CD, the seatbelt, the seats, the steering wheel and the airbag as weapons.

The second great moment which I think is one of the most defining in the history of the relationship between Chuck and Sarah was when the nerd herder exploded and Sarah thinking Chuck was still inside of it. You obviously knew the show wasn’t going to kill off Chuck, and even though we didn’t see that Chuck was using a remote control until after, we know he had found a way somehow but Sarah didn’t know that, and Yvonne Strahovski sold that moment so well. Sarah in this moment was just hit with the realization of what her life would be without chuck and her reaction showed how much she truly cared about Chuck. This was the defining moment of their relationship. Superb acting by Yvonne.

Side note: The look that Casey gives Chuck after seeing that he used the remote control to get the bomb away from them was a look of amazement and I think that is the moment where Casey really started to respect Chuck and his abilities.

Even though Morgan was not in the Buy More subplot this episode (which was rare in season 2) we still got a memorable moment that would live on in the Chuck legacy forever and that is the creation of JEFFSTER!

Song from the final fight-

Jeff: “Originally we were going to go with the name Jester but didn’t want people to associate us with a couple of fools.”

Jeff also quoting “Lose yourself” by Eminem to pump up Lester to pursue his dreams of Jeffster was also a nice moment.

Jeffster singing “Africa” by Toto while Chuck and Sarah were holding hands and Morgan and Anna were back together is one of the best endings of any Chuck episode in my opinion. Not everyone will agree with that, I know.

This episode of Chuck as a whole was one of the most enjoyable of the entire 91 episodes, and  was a classic Chuck episode in my opinion. I would say it is the second best episode of season 2 and a top 5 of the series overall. I really appreciate all of the small moments that happened in this episode but it’s a shame that this episode always gets overlooked.

Memorable moments/quotes-

Chuck: “Morgan maybe you should stay away from girls.. for like 15 years.”

Chuck: “That was pretty sweet, huh”

Chuck: “Actually, you know what. I’ve been thinking.”
Casey: “Stop that.”

Casey: “There’s only one mission here moron.”

Chuck: “Sticks and stones may break my bones.”
Casey: “Want to test that theory Bartowski?”
Chuck: “Not particularly no.”

Jeff: “Originally we were going to go with the name Jesster but didn’t want people to associate us with a couple of fools.”
Chuck: “Obviously not.”

Jeff: “If you had one shot or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted, one moment. Would you capture it or just let it slip?”
Lester: “Jeffster lives man!”

Jeff: “I’m setting up to rock you hard.”
Ellie: “I’m sorry rock who hard?”

Morgan: “That’s strong, what is that pep– is that just peppermint?” (faints)
Chuck: “That was quick.”

Jeff: “Have you ever had a dream that’s never come true?”
Awesome: “Hmmm, no.”

Jeff: “He has a voice that will make angels cry.”

Casey’s pained look on face while Jeffster was playing followed by earplugs.

Jeff’s hand getting crushed by the door. Awesome: “Dude, your supposed to stop a door with your foot.”

The look on Sarah’s face when she thought Chuck had exploded in the car,  to me, was more devastating than the look she had when Chuck is dropped by Colt in “Chuck versus the First Date” when Casey catches Chuck but Sarah didn’t know. To me this showed how much Sarah had grown to care about Chuck in that short period time between those Season 2 episodes.

In IGN’s top 10 episodes of ‘Chuck’ Chuck versus the Best Friend was ranked at #6. Now most Chuck fans will say that #6 is way too high for this episode and maybe even some will say this episode doesn’t even belong in the top 10 but I support the ranking IGN put this episode in and If I had to rank my own personal Top 10 episodes of Chuck, This episode would be in the top 5 at #5.

Now here is what IGN had to say about the episode: “In Season 1, Morgan could often be annoying. But Season 2 in general did a commendable job rectifying that. “The Best Friend”, appropriately enough, solidified Morgan’s transformation into a lovable character, whose bond with Chuck was admirable and crucial to our title character. There was a wonderful combination of humor and heart in this episode, as Morgan asked Chuck to help him spy on his on-again/off-again girlfriend, Anna, not knowing his best friend was now an actual spy.”

“This was also the episode that introduced us to the glory and grandeur of Jeffster – and their performance of Toto’s “Africa”, as Morgan and Anna had their big reconciliatory kiss, was a appropriately great moment for Morgan. All that, plus this episode included perhaps the coolest fight in Chuck’s history, as Sarah took on a sexy and lethal gal with the awesome name of Smooth Lau inside the tight confines of a car.”

“I’m just still a bit bummed we never got a Sarah vs. Smooth rematch”

http://www.ign.com/articles/2012/01/25/igns-top-10-chuck-episodes?page=2 – Full top 10 episodes of Chuck by IGN in that link.

Now I agree with everything IGN had to say about this episode. Now I guess you could say that if you look at the history of Chuck and all of it’s 91 episodes, this episode at first glance doesn’t seem all that important and some will say that this episode had no effect on the history of ‘Chuck’ and is not an important episode of the show as for example “Phase 3” was and that this episode doesn’t have a lasting impression over the course of the series. And all the people that say that or have those thoughts, I will not say you are wrong, and you are entitled to your opinion, but I think for those exact reasons that this episode is kind of small and doesn’t have a lasting impression on the entire show, I think it makes you appreciate this episode and the characters a whole lot more, because this episode is very small scale and not a huge big episode in the history of Chuck and it doesn’t change the course of the show as say “Phase 3” or “Chuck versus the Ring” did but it’s for all of those reasons that’s why I love this episode of Chuck so much.

This episode also gave us the first appearance of “Jeffster” and Jeffster played a big part in the history of Chuck and especially in the finale of Chuck and we would have never gotten all those wonderful Jeffster performances that will live on forever in Chuck history if it wasn’t for this episode. And that makes this episode special to me.

I’ve talked to some people and friends of mine and I’ve also seen people on twitter that are just kind of casual Chuck fans and not exactly die hard chuck fans that we are, but I’ve talked to them to see how much they know about the show and every single one of them has said Jeffster and that Jeffster is one of the reasons they liked the show. Jeffster appeals to not only die hard Chuck fans but also casual Chuck fans and I think that is important because that will eventually lead casual Chuck fans deeper into the show and they will see how special and brilliant ‘Chuck’ truly is, Whether it be by Netflix or if they watched the original airing of this episode on NBC.

Now this episode of Chuck was written by Alison Adler who has wrote some great episodes of Chuck such as “Cougars” “Wookiee” “Broken Heart” and “Chuck versus the Ring” and she delivers another fantastic Chuck episode here with “Chuck vs the Best Friend”

I can’t stress this enough how underrated this episode of Chuck is. This episode had garnered the lowest ratings a Chuck episode had gotten up until that point, and that is sad because I wish this episode was watched by more people or at least got more credit and recognition that it deserves as much as other Chuck episode get. Even though this episode is often over looked it had more heart than or equally as much heart than arguably any Chuck episode and that is what makes this episode so enjoyable.

Friendship and Family are both very powerful and special to me and that’s why this episode resonates with me as much as it does and why it has compelled me to write this article in the first place.

The ending of the episode with Jeff and Lester finally living their dreams as “Jeffster” performing “Africa” by Toto, and Morgan and Anna back together, and Chuck and Sarah holding hands, and Casey putting in ear plugs to block out Jeffster while a classic John Casey look is on his face. All of that really resonates strongly with me because all of these characters are a family just as we are a big family of people who share and voice our love for ‘Chuck’

_______________________________________________________________

Great debut article Mike, and welcome to the Chuckaholics family.  I love everything you wrote about Chuck vs the Best Friend.  We can take this a little further though

What would you say if this episode was a learning moment from both Sarah and Chuck?

Without diverging too much in this episode because I am writing about this very subject in my latest chapter of Sarah Walker.  But here is the issue at hand. Chuck’s relationship with Morgan is something Sarah had no experience dealing with.

Missions and orders is what she operates under. Not until Chuck vs the Predator does SArah really begin to question the orders of her superiors., and she does for the very sentiments you talk about here in this episodes.

Chuck will do anything for friends and family he made it clear in the pilot but sarah never knew the levels at which he will take that loyalty too. Morgan may be annoying but there is no question the friendship between these two are the second relationship of the series that makes the foundation of Chuck.

I digressed, When Chuck was willing to die for Morgan, not a mission not because he was trying to send a program to someone like Bryce. He did it because he was protecting his friend. For both Sarah and Casey, they know now the lengths of what friends and family mean.

and for Sarah, like in Phase Three the thought of life without Chuck was too much for her too bare. Her cover at this point is really compromised but who cares because Casey was saddened with the thought as well.

Both main story plots were great for this episode and it was nice breather from the overall story of Season 2, but for me this is not a top 5 episode. What makes a top 5 episode for me has lasting impression over the course of the entire series.  I don’t have the conventional Cliffhanger to colonel on my list because they were great episodes but for me all phases of the episode have to work for me to include it.

This is why my number one episode will always be Chuck vs Phase 3, The writing and acting was tremendous. Yvonne Strahovski’s acting was top notch the pure emotion and pain in Sarah as she tries to wake Chuck was the very feeling you get from Sarah watching the Car exploded. The difference was  Sarah did something about the kidnapping.

What would of Sarah have done if Chuck did die?  Would she return to Washington business as usually or will her heart be devastated due to losing her “guy”

As for Chuck and Morgan we get a nice story here, but they’re best comes in Chuck vs the Beard for the very reasons you mention up top.

Christopher

 

 

 

 

 

6 comments

  1. Wow no one pays attention to this article but for me, I agree with Christopher, this is one of the series that highlights the core value that Chuck wants to teach us: friendships, family ties, love and unconditional love, sacrifice. This is one of the episode that I always watch because :

    1. You can see as the title itself the friendship of Chuck and Morgan. Also, how Chuck can do anything for their friendship, even to sacrifice himself, he didn’t mind it. As we can see, Ellie don’t like Morgan because of his some weirdness. She even said in the pilot episode to Morgan that you disgust me. But still Chuck fights and stand for him. Also, during this episode he even confront Sarah when his friendship with Morgan is at stake.

    Chuck: “I don’t have parents. I mean, not really. And I don’t talk about it because that’s just the way things are now. But it wasn’t always this way. Morgan was there the first day that my mom took off. He didn’t say much because, honestly, what is a fifth grader supposed to say? But we sat there and split a cherry cheesecake and played Legend of Zelda all night long. And my dad… well, that’s a whole… other story, but Morgan was there for that too. Morgan is more than just my best friend. He’s my family. Before you got here and long after you’ve gone, Morgan is my family.”

    2. Sarah’s love for Chuck showed again when she cried when she thinks that Chuck was in the exploded nerd herd car. Wow, for me that was one of the epic moment. It feels like a tidbits or stepping stone for a Chuck vs Phase 3. You can also see Casey’s sadness and shocked too. But I don’t know if other feels the same way that I do, it is really great if Sarah embrace Chuck when Chuck appeared after the explosion of nerd herd car. I think it will intensify that episode more.

    3. Sarah’s discovery that there are kind of friendship exists. She even ask for Chucks forgiveness because she didn’t know and haven’t experience something like that. But being Chuck, the assurance that he will do the same thing with Sarah when same circumstances happens that I know melt her heart.

    Well, one of the episode that I am loving and its ashamed few notices it.

    Christopher, good commentary and points highlighted with this episode.

    I’m enjoying this site.

    • Thank you for the kind comment yvonnefansphils, this was my first ever article I wrote on Chuckaholics and I wanted to highlight an episode that often gets overlooked and is very underrated in my opinion. Friendship and Family to me are very powerful and both of those themes are in this episode. I really wish this episode got more credit and recognition as much as other Chuck episodes do.

  2. amazing article! chuck vs phase three was my nr 1 emotional episode,but this is nr 2. a true friendship never dies,and it’s worth fighting for. this is a very noble thaught that chuck had,and it’s admirable. i can’t wait to see more of these articles.

    • Thanks! I think Sarah at the end of this episode, after seeing the lengths that Chuck would go to protect Morgan: Sacrificing his friendship with Morgan to save his life, risking his own life to protect that of his friend, and also the speech that Chuck gave to Sarah about how Morgan is his family. Now after seeing all of that Chuck did for Morgan, I think Sarah was very out of her element because she’s not use to caring for someone as much as Chuck cares for Morgan, I mean she even says that exact thing at the end of the episode, but when Sarah says she doesn’t have anyone in her life who cares about her like that and Chuck says to her “Yeah you do” That is genuine and Chuck would do the same thing to protect Sarah if she was in the situation Morgan was in, and I think Sarah felt that same way at the end when Chuck says that to her. Sarah knowing that Chuck would go to all lengths to protect her just like he did for Morgan in this episode had to have melted her heart, and it ends with them holding hands wondering what their future may be all while Jeffster is playing for the first time ever. Fantastic ending and a big reason why I love this episode so much.

      This entire episode is a perfect example of how much Chuck’s character cares for his family and friends and that’s why we all love Chuck Bartowski. You could also say that this episode is somewhat of a stepping stone for Phase 3 or even Cliffhanger where both Sarah and Chuck risk everything to protect each other. Now Phase 3 and Cliffhanger both have more impact than this episode, but I think whether it’s Chuck risking his life for Morgan, or Sarah and Chuck risking their lives for each other in Phase 3 and Cliffhanger, the principle is still the same because they all did it because of Love, Loyalty and Friendship, and those are the exact values that ‘Chuck’ as a show tries to teach us.

      Sarah reacting the way she did to Chuck’s apparent death shows that she cares about Chuck just as much as Chuck does for her, and also when Chuck comes out from behind the car and showing that he’s still alive, he doesn’t really respond much to the look on Sarah’s face and also Sarah tries to hide it after seeing Chuck is still alive. However I think they both sensed their love for each other at that moment and at the very end of the episode, even if they didn’t show it much or say it much, they both sensed it and it progressed the relationship of Chuck and Sarah to a deeper level of What if Chuck or Sarah died then how would the other react. So in many ways this episode has a lot of the themes Phase 3 and Cliffhanger do but this episode doesn’t get the same recognition as those other 2 episodes do. Maybe this episode gets overlooked because it revolves too much about the friendship of Chuck and Morgan, but as we saw in this episode and also Beard which is another fantastic Chuck episode, that the friendship is equally important compared to any other aspect of the show including the love of Chuck and Sarah.

      • The protection of family and friends (which also evolves to include Sarah and Casey) is always of paramount importance to Chuck…. this is a core value that makes Chuck so likeable. When the writers stray from those core values is where the series suffers.

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