OK…a little bit of a provocative title for an editorial, but my goal is to provoke some different thoughts and discussion amongst the group. Before I go too far and get you all “up in arms”, let me state that my belief is she did love Chuck…sort of !
Why am I even going here when the answer seems obvious ? Well, my new mantra is that, in spite of some of the glaring writing mistakes in the series, the story that we got is the story that we have to live with. It is the story that we get to analyze and dissect…even the episodes where we thought the writers screwed up and we didn’t like. I’ve referred to this idea in several of the comments sections, but I wanted to devote an article to it so we don’t go down some rabbit hole in another article that should have a whole different direction. So here is my theory, for better or worse. I believe that Sarah never really loved Chuck the man, but was really more in love with what Chuck represented to her. To make this easier to understand and keep straight, I mean she was more in love with the metaphysical Chuck than the physical Chuck. In order to try to put this in perspective, try to look at these scenarios and explain them.
1) In Chuck Vs. Sarah and Chuck Vs. The Goodbye, Sarah had no feelings for Chuck whatsoever. This is in spite of Chuck’s emotional plea to her, and her having the V-logs that document her falling in love with Chuck. Chuck the man is right in front of her, and she says she believes what he told her to be true, but she doesn’t feel anything.
2) In Season 3, we get several episodes and scenarios where Sarah is very indifferent to Chuck, his emotions, or his trials and tribulations . I don’t want to get bogged down with the Train Station because it was a colossal misunderstanding. But ask yourself what the difference was between Sarah asking Chuck to run away with her in Prague, and Chuck asking Sarah to go away with him on a romantic vacation ? In both instances, one opened themselves up emotionally, and the other inexplicably chose not to go. Then look at the difference in how Chuck handled Sarah rejecting him for Bryce, and how Sarah handled Chuck rejecting her for the spy life. I don’t believe all of Sarah’s decisions in Season 3 stem from Chuck choosing not to run with her, but instead, from Chuck choosing to be a spy. ( More on that later !)
3) Why was Sarah satisfied with a completely fake, non sexual relationship in Season 1 and 2 ? She was a beautiful young woman, and obviously felt a connection with Chuck …even going so far as to record (on Day 564) that she was in love with Chuck. Now, of course they couldn’t be together in any official capacity, but unofficially, Sarah’s apartment was off the grid. If she really felt a deep love for Chuck, wouldn’t she at some point try to consummate it ? They did get close in The Colonel, but they had all night if she really wanted to get physical. She chose not to.
So what is the metaphysical Chuck? It is what Chuck represented…what his core virtues and values were…his inherent goodness, his innocence, his sweetness, his ability to see the good in all people and his trust of people. Physical Chuck was what we saw every episode…and it changed quite a bit as the Seasons wore on. Many times, the physical Chuck was not a very desirable person. As some others have noted, he was unbelievably annoying during the Beefcake episodes…probably a writing ploy to emphasize the hunkiness of Cole Barker, but still ! However, I digress. No matter what physical attributes Chuck was displaying, Sarah never really seemed interested in a physical relationship. She worked her butt of to keep both her and Chuck in Burbank, but it was always to maintain a closeness with Chuck rather than anything sexual. So why did she need Chuck close to her, but not in a sexual way? For the clues to this question, I think we have to go back to pre-Chuck Sarah and figure out what was going on in her life.
First, we know that Sarah did have a chance at a so-called “normal” life with her mother. It was her mother that lived in a white house with a red door and a picket fence. But we also know that Sarah had an independent streak and chose to go live with her father. We’re not exactly sure why that is, but it seems that Sarah craved adventure. She liked the “good times’ she had with her Dad…the shenanigans, being on the run. She was always saving her money for more “Adventures with Dad”. But her life with her father came with some huge negatives. She was taught that you couldn’t trust anyone, and you had to do things alone because of that. She was probably taught to feel no remorse when you con people out of money. When she was recruited into the CIA, they expanded on that concept with her. She probably relished the thoughts of being a spy and living a life of adventure, and, due to what her father had taught her, she excelled at it. However, then came her Red Test …what she calls the “worse day of her life.” Even her upbringing probably couldn’t suppress the emotion, the remorse she felt at having to take another person’s life. If she was going to survive being a spy and doing these bad, almost evil things, she was going to have to bury her emotions deep, deep inside of her. That is how you rationalize your actions …there are no consequences, there are no repercussions…you do what you have to do to complete the mission. Emotions get you killed.
But then she was partnered with Bryce. There was obviously a physical connection, and she probably made herself vulnerable because of that. She would start to find those emotions again, but she couldn’t really ever talk about them. Then, after about 2 years with Bryce, she thought he betrayed her…she thought he joined Fulcrum. Once again, she opened herself up and had herself hurt. But opening herself up usually comes with some self examination, and I think she started to question her actions…her ability to do what ever needed to be done. When she went to Hungary to rescue the Baby, she seems to realize that her actions do have consequences. Here is an sweet, innocent baby, who has done nothing wrong, but will lose her life…especially if Sarah buries her emotions deep down. She can’t do that, and I think it made her realize all the BAD things she’s done in her life. She probably understands that, most of the time, it’s for the greater good. But not always, and it’s starting to eat at her. Then, by some coincidence, she gets sent to Burbank.
We know what happens next…she sees this guy who is sweet and innocent.( Thanks for making me feel like I’m in the eighth grade !) What he does for the ballerina. What he says to her on their date ….this guy is the embodiment of good and nice and charming. He wants nothing from her, but offers to be her baggage handler ( i.e. do something FOR her rather than TO her ). He makes her laugh.. so Sarah gets to feel emotions that are good rather than bad. Chuck’s metaphysical qualities perfectly offset what she hates about herself… he is the yin to her yang. And THAT is what Sarah fell for, not Chuck’s physical qualities. If Sarah wants a physical relationship, she will always chose someone like Bryce or Cole or Shaw…not Chuck.
You may ask why Sarah then didn’t fall for him in Season 5 in The Goodbye ? Well, that’s because she wasn’t looking for a way to balance her perceived bad deeds. It wasn’t just 5 years that was erased…it was longer. She still thought Bryce was her partner, so she didn’t remember his betrayal. She didn’t remember the Baby, so there was no realization that her bad actions may have consequences….she was not carrying any emotional baggage at the time. So she didn’t need either the physical or metaphysical Chuck. Originally, she loved the fact that Chuck couldn’t kill anyone. If he could, then he wouldn’t counterbalance her ability to kill people. She didn’t have the same feeling towards Chuck not shooting Quinn, so obviously she wasn’t looking for Chuck’s metaphysical being to balance hers….she was still in assassin/ spy mode at the end.
To further illustrate this point, let’s look at Season 3 again. We realize Sarah is hurt when Chuck says he can’t go with her in Prague. After 3 words, it seems Sarah has come to terms with the mistakes that were made. She knows Chuck loves her. She knows Chuck chose to be a spy for the greater good. She knows he still treasures his family and friends. And she MAY have an inkling that he did it for her. In the first 2 seasons, that would have led to a conversation of some sort. There may have been some miscommunication, but they would have talked about it. Sarah doesn’t want to talk about it in Season 3, but she does agree that they should just be friends. She’s also indifferent to being with Chuck. She doesn’t defend any of his actions, and anytime he does something in moving his spy skills forward, Sarah has a problem with it. When Hanna kisses Chuck ( and simultaneously Shaw is coming on to Sarah), they have a little bit of a dustup regarding these new relationships perhaps starting. But it is Chuck, who feels a little guilty about the Hanna kiss, asking Sarah if she’s alright with the whole “Hanna thing.” When Chuck then mentions how good her and Shaw look together, Sarah will say, ” Well, I do have my type.” …and of course, that type is not Chuck. She can say this without irony, without regret or remorse. That would be a very odd behavior if she actually loved the man. Other examples of not being in love with Chuck are when she doesn’t believe him about the Red Test ( you know…they do have this thing called ballistics….I think the CIA has a lab….), and she is perfectly willing to let Shaw blow up Castle with Chuck still inside. All she does at the end of The Beard is ASK Shaw to give Chuck more time. She does nothing when he initiates the destruction procedure. ( Contrast that to what she did when Longshore took Chuck to be bunkered….standing on the helipad with her hand on her pistol). All of these things can’t be traced back to Prague, but they all make sense when you consider that it was more about Chuck becoming a spy !
You see, Sarah felt that if Chuck became a spy, he would become just like her, or at least, he would not be the sweet innocent guy she met the first day at the Buy More. All through Season 3, Chuck showed time and again that he hadn’t really changed, but Sarah couldn’t see it…she was convinced he was going to change. So even though the same physical Chuck was right there with her, she thought the metaphysical Chuck wasn’t…especially after the Red Test. So physical Chuck did nothing for her, and metaphysical Chuck now didn’t balance her out. That’s why she can do mean things to Chuck the man, without regret or remorse, and feeling she doesn’t have to redeem herself. Chuck the man held nothing for her emotionally or physically, and was only needed in her life metaphysically. I like to think of it as Sarah trying to balance all the bad karma in her life with Chuck’s good karma !!.
So when Chuck and her get together late Season 3, Sarah can go back to being a spy …she doesn’t have to run with Chuck, because Chuck being a spy didn’t change him. She is now balanced by his metaphysical properties. He is the same physical Chuck as he had been all throughout Season 3, the one Sarah had no interest in…the one that she told would have to run from the spy life with her ( a lie, of course). Both physically and metaphysically, it was the same Chuck. But she so needed him to be the same as he was when they first met, or there was no sense in them being together.
I’d love to hear your comments on this take on Chuck and Sarah’s relationship ! Sorry for the long post !