Chuck vs. the Intersect / Pilot
Season 1, Episode 1, air-date September 24, 2007
Chuck is a computer geek who gets a computer full of information zapped into his brain...information that contains secrets that the federal government desperately needs to keep in Chuck's head...and keep Chuck, himself, intact. Chuck meets a woman who agrees to go on a date with him, but she's one of the government agents who's interested more in his head than his body.
So in the first "Retro Version" of mxpw vs. Frea, the two commentators attempt to battle the boredom of hiatus with an episode that regularly shows up on favorite lists of Chuck bloggers everywhere. Last week, there was no optimist. This week, there is no pessimist. Amazing how that balances out.
Unfortunately, the monkey minions chained to the keyboard were unable to capture the first part of the conversation between our esteemed episode critics (or it was about Fates/Fortune and contained spoilers), so we now take you to your regularly scheduled mxpw vs. Frea, already in session:
Frea: ...and wow her accent fluctuated so much in the Pilot.
mxpw: I know!
mxpw: I was thinking that too.
Frea: At times it was the deeper accent of later seasons, but she got kind of high pitched and breathy at points
mxpw: During the roof scene is where I noticed it the most.
Frea: Me too!
mxpw: Her accent was really showing then.
Frea: Also when she and Chuck were walking on the overpass
Frea: She sounded like somebody who had spent the first ten years or so in Australia, but who has been stateside for awhile.
mxpw: Honestly, considering how young she was and the fact that this was her first major role, and in America no less, it's amazing her accent was as good as it was.
mxpw: I think that's actually what I noticed most during my re-watch: How young they all were. But especially Yvonne. She looked like such a baby! She was only like 24 when they filmed the Pilot, I think, and it shows.
Frea: Heee!!! I was thinking the same thing.
Frea: And also that Sarah Lancaster had a really weird thing where she kept looking down.
mxpw: Maybe she just didn't want to look at Josh Gomez.
Frea: Also, noticed some new fun things I hadn't seen before
Frea: The scene where Ellie and Chuck are talking at the fountain that no girl wants to hear the ex-girlfriend story.
Frea: In the background, you see Morgan and Awesome cleaning up and then Awesome tosses something into a trash bag Morgan's holding, and fist-pumps. It made me giggle.
mxpw: I love that opening scene with the parade of women. The vacant-looking red head was the best part.
mxpw: I've seen that episode like six times and I don't think I've noticed that bit before.
mxpw: Good catch!
Frea: I will always have my issues the parade of women, but I enjoy it for what it is.
Frea: The staring into the camera trick they used in the pilot is something I'm glad didn't stick around very long.
mxpw: It gave us, in my mind, still one of the best sight gags of the whole series.
Frea: Though it was hilarious in the dancing scene.
mxpw: Bryce dropping from the ceiling and the "(Not an accountant)" under his name.
Frea: The side-swiped titles! Honestly, I miss those.
mxpw: There's a lot of stuff in the Pilot they didn't keep!
mxpw: Like, for instance, Chuck doesn't react when he flashes in the Pilot.
Frea: I even made a little sweeping motion with my right hand when the (not an accountant) slide came in.
Frea: Yes, he just sort of tranced out, didn't he? He actually looked a little forlorn during his flash while he was on the overpass on the date with Sarah. And Sarah was just all, "Did I break my date?"
mxpw: Hahaha, yes. You could hear the slight nervousness in her voice.
Frea: Every time I watch the date, I have a hard time not squeeing like a total fangirl, not going to lie.
mxpw: And as Phase Three showed us, apparently Sarah does actually consider that their first date.
Frea: "He had me at baggage handler."
mxpw: Yeah, pretty much, though I really do think the ballerina scene was what really did it. Baggage handler just sealed the deal.
Frea: I mean, they really did look like they were just having fun in the faraway shots while Casey was in the Suburban watching them. I can understand why she would consider that their first date.
mxpw: I have to admit, I have trouble not squeeing like a fangirl too while watching the start of their relationship. They looked so fun and natural together.
mxpw: Yes, exactly! I never actually noticed that before until now, but you could tell they just clicked.
mxpw: It kinda makes me want to pull Sarah aside and be all like, "So, Sarah, if I told you four years from now you'd be marrying this guy, what would you say?"
Frea: I think after the first half of the date, she would be like, "Um, it takes me four years?"
Frea: "Oh, whoops. I meant, what? He's an asset!"
mxpw: Yeah, I can totally see that.
Frea: So I have a confession to make:
Frea: This is my most-watched episode of Chuck. I've seen it too many times to count. And I had more than enough evidence of that when I was quoting along with the entire thing on my rewatch.
mxpw: Haha. I can say I've seen this episode more than any other as well, I think. The only possible competition is Seduction, DeLorean, and Colonel. I've only seen Phase Three four times so it doesn't make the cut.
mxpw: But since you brought it up, favorite quote?
Frea: "Thanks for the tip, Ponch!"
Frea: "What's that, sir? Xerox machines? On it!"
mxpw: Mine is still probably, "Whooooa! Computer emergency!"
mxpw: It's all in the delivery.
Frea: I remember that being sooooo hyped in the promos for the show and being so excited for the episode based on that alone.
mxpw: Although I have to say, I laughed rather hard for some reason when Chuck was rambling about his future plans to Sarah in the car after they went down the stairs. "And maybe someday become Assistant Manager, but I don't even know if I want that." Again, it was all in Zac's delivery. Kinda sheepish and fading off like he realized how unimportant what he was saying was.
Frea: While watching that this time, I was like, "Why are they staying in the car? Why is she not driving away?" You can see her looking around for Casey and his goons, keeping an eye out (except, of course, for the direction he actually comes from), but she's not even attempting to start the car or anything. It was kind of like, "Oh, let's wait here so we can use the really cool sideways T-bone shot."
mxpw: Heh, yeah. The Chuck Pilot is one of the best pilots I've ever seen, but it is not without its flaws. Even though it might not seem like that from all our gushing.
Frea: Some really clunky dialogue, especially for Sarah, and some really cheese-ball things, but I don't care, really. I love this Pilot so much.
mxpw: It's always really bothered me about the inter-agency rivalry that they have in this episode. Like the idea that nobody on Casey's team (including Casey himself, Mr. Semper Fi) had any problem with killing a fellow government agent just doing her job was really a kind of discordant aspect of the episode. I mean, it made for some great scenes, but it was weird.
mxpw: Also, you know what I realized? They never catch the bad guy! At least, I don't think. This is like the only episode where that's happened.
Frea: Yeah, they never caught him. I was thinking about that. Maybe he can come back. The scene in the Large Mart is kind of over the top with Chuck getting freaked out about him being followed, only to repeatedly fake out with power tools, but I love the hilarious "Terminator vibe" line after we see the guy walk threateningly right at the camera. Excellent writing/sight gag.
mxpw: Actually, I think the best sight gag in that scene is the beginning with the "Astro Diapers."
mxpw: That cracks me up every time.
Frea: I know! Me too!
Frea: I love that Chuck's computer monitor has a post-it note that reads "I am a Professional Nerd" on it.
mxpw: Speaking of great sight gags, although this is more an aural gag, I always loved the end with the Ennio Morricone music playing in the background. You think it's the soundtrack, until they pan over to Morgan and you see he's actually playing the music himself.
Frea: We're about to jump into the shallow end of the pool. One of my all-time favorite Chuck expressions happens while Fistful of Dollars is playing--his sneer before Harry Tang bumps him. Oh geez. I, ah, may put that on slow-motion. The man has a very sexy sneer. And the producers really do have a point that Yvonne Strahovski is their saving grace, as she can make Zac Levi look average by comparison.
Frea: But hey, since we're already in the shallow end, how about that date prep montage? Yowza!
mxpw: Oh there's my opening!
mxpw: You read my mind. I was trying to think of how I could introduce the date prep montage, heh.
Frea: Just helping a buddy out.
mxpw: Thank you for doing my work for me.
mxpw: So, even after four years of some really great scenes, that's still one of the best moments of SWP on the show. It was hot. Probably mostly unnecessary, but still completely appreciated.
mxpw: I mean, she looked really, really good. But I do think that scene, and the scene at the end when she's looking at the Cabo pictures, really showed how young she looked back then.
Yvonne has changed a lot since the Pilot, that's for sure.
Frea: I think she looked her youngest when the Suburban was coming at her and she threw the knife at the road block button. Also, kind of a defining Sarah moment, the fact that she seemed kind of exhilarated rather than frightened to be facing down the GovernmentWorkerMobile.
mxpw: The Sarah from the Pilot is pretty different from even the Sarah from Helicopter, I think. She had an edge to her that gradually dulled throughout S1. It's funny, but that scene Chuck sees in the Intersect at the very end is still, I think, the most efficiently brutal we've ever seen Sarah be on the show. It does make you wonder what she used to be like before she met Chuck.
Frea: According to Phase Three: Graham's wild-card enforcer.
mxpw: I guess Phase Three gave us a hint of that, but I still don't believe Casey's comments about her being a wildcard enforcer for Graham. She's too methodical for that.
Frea: Great minds, my dear Maximus, great minds.
Frea: I agree; I took a lot of Fates Sarah's characterization from the Pilot and then from Helicopter. From the pilot, Casey's the most underdeveloped, the brutal enforcer type that doesn't mind burning down buildings and leaving bodies in his wake. The scene on the helipad proves that; I got vibes of Whedon characters from Casey's sort of "Bored now" acting and rambling about going out for pancakes. I don't think he became "a patriot" until much later in the development after the Pilot, for example.
mxpw: I think you're right about Casey being fairly underdeveloped or that he didn't become a patriot until later. He was too brutal and indiscriminate for that. But I don't know, I still think Sarah is almost as underdeveloped. We can guess that her motivations for doing what she does are because she wants to clear her name, but it's never really clear why she acts the way she does. At least with Casey, you can kinda glean why he is the way he is: he's a burnout, a junkyard dog unleashed to deal with problems.
Frea: I think she's underdeveloped, writing-wise, but I think Yvonne makes up for a lot of that, even then. She really does put a lot into that character, which was why I liked her from day one. I guess I bought too deeply into the date scene because I never questioned why she would be there. One dude burned her, and the other's cute and rambly and funny. I know, Frea the feminist is categorizing Sarah solely because of her interest in a guy. Oh geez, what is the world coming to?!
mxpw: Oh I'm not denying that once she goes on the date, her primary motivation is protecting Chuck. I'm talking mostly about before that. I mean, it's not even really clear why she'd even need to clear her name until she talks about "Bruce" and then the end with the pictures.
Frea: See, I thought, "She's going to be so much fun," the instant she ripped off her ninja mask in the car. Of course, this was three plus years ago, so I can't remember if I was like, "Called it!" or not, but I might have been.
mxpw: Haha, yes, that's one of the better first meetings I've ever seen on a TV show. Though, I have to say, it's a little hard to concentrate during that scene with the way Sarah smiles throughout it. She makes my brain mushy.
Frea: Also, nice soft Gaussian blur glow filter on her close-up.
mxpw: Yes. I think that the writers from today should take lessons from their own history about how to use the Buy More. I thought their use in the Pilot is fairly perfect. Just the right amount, with the right tone. Granted, things have changed so much that they'd never be able to quite capture that feel again, but man, if they could even come close...
Frea: The Buy More was definitely so much more prevalent during the first season because it meant more to Chuck. I'm about to surprise you, but one of the things I love about this episode is Morgan. I love Josh Gomez's delivery of every single line he had. I love his freaked out happy twirl away when he confirms that Chuck is free to go on a date with Sarah. I love his adoration of the Herder: "This baby's riding on chrome...or plastic!" I thought his lack of boundaries was hilarious as opposed to annoying as it later became. And something new I picked up, when Morgan wakes Chuck up post-Intersect download, Chuck asks him, "Did you spike my punch?" And Morgan happily goes, "Yes!"
mxpw: I wish I could have been on set for the filming of the ninja scene, because I really want to know how JG and ZL got through the end of that scene without cracking up and how many takes it took.
mxpw: But yes, I actually agree with you about Morgan. I think the Pilot is one of his best episodes pre-S3.
mxpw: He was pretty much perfectly used.
Frea: "Why, Sarah! What manly shoulders you have!"
mxpw: They did look rather broad, didn't they?
Frea: The better for her to carry the weight of the world during S3, my dear.
mxpw: Of course, I've long suspected that that was a male stuntman in that scene, so...
mxpw: Oh man! The idea that S3 Sarah would ever come about after watching the Pilot is like... It boggles the mind.
Frea: I love that Chuck uses his brain, not the Intersect, to save the day. Casey's line, "That's not an X-Box. And you are not an X-Man" is a little too nerd-aware for him, but I love it. And I love that Chuck's like, "I know, but this has a DOS override and I can think outside the box!"
Frea: Of course, that also leads to one of my all-time favorite lines, "Don't puke on the C4."
mxpw: Yeah... I was just thinking that earlier. It's actually rather depressing seeing what Chuck was like in the Pilot. Here's a guy who was completely overwhelmed and had no idea what he was doing demanding that he be allowed to solve a problem. And yet we have Chuck from FOD through Leftovers in S4 who seems to be incapable of tying his shoes on his own.
mxpw: It really does seem at times like Chuck is the only character on the show who hasn't really grown.
Frea: His progress was excellent....right up until Ring I.
mxpw: *sigh* Yeah.
mxpw: So is there anything else you want to talk about before we wrap things up?
mxpw: Oh, I guess we would be remiss without mentioning Ellie and Awesome.
Frea: Well, yeah.
Frea: The amusing thing about Awesome was when this was written and made, they were still planning to make him evil, right?
mxpw: Ellie's line about inviting real, live women to the party still amuses me to this day. You can tell she know she has a nerd for a brother.
mxpw: Yes, they were initially going to make Awesome a Russian spy, I believe. But decided not to when he clicked with the audience.
Frea: I'm so glad he clicked with the audience.
mxpw: Glad they decided not to. That would diminish the great "Group hug! Awesome!" bit at the end.
Frea: Which remains today one of my favorite moments of the series.
Frea: I love Ellie in this episode. I remember being so excited to see that Sarah Lancaster was on the show. I was a huge fan of hers before she came on, thanks to her work on Everwood (even though she played what was kind of viewed as the Shaw character of that show, minus the bad acting) and a few other shows that I had seen. I think the only time I was more excited to discover something about this show was when they first debuted the opening credits in either Wookie or Tango because it's one of my two favorite Cake songs and has been since freshman year of college. But yeah, so happy to see Sarah Lancaster, and her scenes with Josh Gomez never failed to make me laugh. She plays protective older sister very well and she's got great comedic timing. Makes me wish we had more moments like this and Truth,, really.
mxpw: I think my favorite Ellie bit in the Pilot is after the party and Morgan comes out to sit next to her and is talking and talking and Ellie just doesn't speak throughout the whole scene and just like walks away. Pretty much every scene with her and Morgan in the episode are great.
Frea: It's just great to visit the start of it all sometimes. Nice to see where we've been and where we are now, really. Sure, the Pilot's far from perfect (definitely some continuity errors like they forgot their own timeline a few times and Chuck's room is completely pitch-dark outside in the beginning, yet it's early evening in the courtyard at the party; and Bryce's blood-stained shirt looks like he'd drained the blood of an animal sacrifice on it, which may have granted him his awesome parkour abilities during that scene), but it's just so much fun. Excellent chemistry between all of the cast members, great writing for the most part, an excellent premise, awesome stunt-work, the full on animal shapes in Chuck's curls...Man! I want to watch it again!
mxpw: I can't say I blame you for wanting to watch it again. You pretty much said all I want to say. I mean, it's a great episode, still funny even after all this time, has awesome SWP, Chuck was extremely likable and charming, Morgan was likable, the humor was more subtle than it usually is on the show, which I really appreciate, and it's the start of my favorite fictional relationship ever. What's not to love?
Frea: The line reading "He's coming with me," but other than that? Nothing! Hee. Which episode are we watching next week, Maximus?
mxpw: That would be one of the best episodes ever! Okay, not really, it's just really good. But it does debut everybody's (not named Frea) favorite red head.
Frea: Carrot Top?
mxpw: Okay, second favorite red head.
mxpw: Chuck vs. the Wookie.
Frea: Awesome. We'll be watching that Tuesday night (and you may be able to join us on Twitter for that...if we remember), and the next Old Time mxpw vs. Frea will be up next Wednesday. Until then, stay sexy.
mxpw: Stay classy, San Diego.
Frea: 9 Astro-Diapers out of 10
mxpw: 4.5 Sarahs Getting Ready for A Date out of 5