– Big Mike

Season 1 comes to a close with this “accidental” season finale. “Marlin” is probably the most unique episode of Chuck, built on a web of intertwining plotlines, and featuring a series of black-and-white flashbacks. It’s very much in the vein of Sunday. (Yes, I just referenced a wacky Bollywood movie. If you have a problem with that, BITE ME.) The Buy More is robbed overnight, Ellie’s engagement ring is stolen, and there might be a receiver in the Buy More containing information about Chuck’s identity as the Intersect. Chuck and Casey try to piece together the night’s events by interrogating the Buy More employees. They’re working against the clock because if they don’t find the receiver in time, then Chuck will be thrown in a bunker.

If you haven’t already, make sure to read the disclaimer.

“That is God and a surgeon working in harmony.”
– Lester

“Marlin” opens with boobs. Yes, boobs. Perverts Lester and Jeff have a disgusting new hobby called Mammary Cam, and they’re intent on videotaping all the cleavage that they can find. They’re particularly obsessed with a particular shawarma – there’s no “c” in that word, Chuck; learn how to spell, damn it – delivery girl named Lizzie.

And from there, we are introduced to the numerous plotlines that twist and turn around each other in this episode. Devon wants to propose to Ellie and gives Chuck the engagement ring for safekeeping. Morgan is afraid that Chuck is going to propose to Sarah. Big Mike and Detective Conway are investigating the Buy More robbery. And Sarah is trying to keep Chuck from being thrown in a bunker. There’s a lot going on – seriously, read the episode’s Wikipedia entry – and it could have been confusing, but Matthew Lau’s script makes it all work. The plot is simply delightful and merits an essay in and of itself, but I’m going to spend the rest of this commentary talking about Sarah.

“Bring it on, Pita Girl!”
– Sarah

Sarah Walker sure knows how to hold her own in a physical fight, doesn’t she? Even though she loses her first bout with Lizzie, she manages to eke out a victory in a dumpster the second time around. But Sarah isn’t so good with the emotional stuff, especially the part when she’s not supposed to get emotional. For better or for worse, she cares about Chuck, and she’s not about to let him be thrown in a padded cell. If Chuck goes, then so does her connection to normalcy. (Remember when I said we’d be talking about normalcy again? We’re not done with it yet.) She’s almost about to pull a gun out on Conway when he gets ready to take Chuck in. Luckily, Chuck manages to talk her down. But let’s pause for a second: Sarah was about to take Chuck on the run. That’s anything but “normal.” Maybe Sarah’s definition of “normal” is more warped than it would appear. There’s more on that to come.

Because this episode requires some sort of happy ending – it would suck if Devon didn’t get to propose to Ellie – Sarah and Casey manage to keep Chuck from being taken in, and Lizzie is captured. In the episode’s last couple of minutes, Chuck congratulates Ellie and Devon on their engagement while Sarah watches on from outside, not wanting to intrude on “family time,” despite Chuck’s invitation. The episode ends with one of the series’ most haunting images: Sarah looks longingly upon the Bartowski family scene, wanting that closeness for herself, but also burdened with the knowledge that she won’t be able to protect Chuck’s normal life forever.

Stay tuned: season 2 is around the corner.