Pilot is the first episode of the first season of Chuck. When a rogue spy sends him the government's secrets, Chuck is forced to cope with being the target of both the CIA and NSA as well as with the knowledge of a plot against a NATO general.
Co-Starring: Vik Sahay (Lester), Julia Ling (Anna Wu), Scott Krinsky (Jeff), Mark Christopher Lawrence (Big Mike), Tasha Campbell (Daughter), Lyn Alicia Henderson (Large Mart Associate), Mieko Hillman (Young Woman #1), Diana Gitelman (Young Woman #2), Odessa Rae (Young Woman #3), Kristine Blackport (Young Woman #4), Nicolas Pajon (Ominous Customer), Mel Fair (News Anchor), Bruno Amato (Security Agent), Jordan Potter (Stoner)
After desperately attempting to escape from his own birthday party, Chuck Bartowski is caught and forced to socialize with a bunch of people that his sister invited. Eventually, his college days at Stanford and his association with former roommate Bryce Larkin are brought up. When asked what Larkin is up to these days, Chuck assumes he's an accountant. This isn't entirely true. Bryce is shown in Washington, D.C. doing something with a computer and hundreds of screens which light up with different images. By all appearances, Bryce looks more like a spy than he does an accountant. After absorbing the information from the computer, he leads the security on a chase through the building and nearly gets away. When he gets outside of the building, Bryce is shot by a man in black but he manages to send an e-mail to Chuck before the device short circuits and he passes out.
Meanwhile, Chuck's party was a bust because he spent his time talking about a girlfriend he had over five years ago. After everyone's gone, Chuck gets the e-mail from Bryce in the form of a text-based game that they wrote while in college. Assuming that it's an odd birthday card, Chuck types in a phrase which "attacks" the "terrible troll" mentioned in the e-mail. Suddenly, all of the images from the television screens filter through the computer screen and Chuck is immobilized by them. Hours pass until 7:00 the next morning, when he's woken up by his friend Morgan. He starts having odd flashes, but discounts it as being a hangover. They drive to "Buy More," a Best Buy knockoff where Chuck tries to prepare the Nerd Herd workers for a new computer virus when he starts rattling off more things that he shouldn't know.
Chuck's condition is being explained by high-ranking CSI and NSA officials somewhere in Washington. After September 11th, 2001, the two organizations banded together to share all of the information that they had accumulated. They put all of that information in a computer and encoded the data into pictures. Whoever sees all of the pictures gains all of Washington's secrets. Though Bryce fried his hard drive, the CIA agent who killed him found a trace indicating that the e-mail was sent to someone in Los Angeles.
At Buy More, Chuck inadvertently flirts with a woman named Sarah who comes in looking to have her phone fixed, but before he can talk to her, he's accosted by a man who desperately wants to know why his digital camera won't play back his daughter's ballet recital. When Chuck explains that you need digital tape in a digital video camera, they have her do it again against the back wall and record the whole thing for her father's benefit. When Chuck gets back to the Nerd Herd booth, Sarah is gone, but she left her card. Chuck and Morgan go back to Chuck's home later that night where they find a person dressed all in black stealing Chuck's computer. Naturally, they get their asses kicked, but the computer is destroyed in the fight. The robber runs off, escapes in a black car and is revealed to be Sarah.
The next day, Chuck finds that his computer's hard drive is completely fried. One of his co-workers suggests that he's on the wrong side of a ninja vendetta. Chuck goes next door to get some new locks when he runs into a man tied to some kind of explosion involving a general who landed in Los Angeles the day before. He becomes convinced that the man wants to kill him. The man checks out with his nailgun and bolt cutters, however, and he retreats back to Buy More where he winds up meeting Sarah again. She asks him out on a date as a ruse to find out if he made a back-up of his hard drive. Her superiors suggest that she kill him if he tries to run, which doesn't seem likely at this point.
Chuck takes Sarah out to a Mexican restaurant, where he's nearly lured into the girlfriend talk which drove away girls at his party but manages to shorten it into a joke. They go to a dive bar to see a band called "Foreign Born" play, but their date is suddenly shortened when the NSA gets involved and Sarah is forced to covertly immobilize the agents. She quickly escorts him out of the club and they get into a high-speed chase with the NSA people that ends with the black SUV ramming them and trying to kill Sarah. She manages to force them to crash by activating an emergency blockade and calls in air evacuation. On the roof of a building nearby, Chuck tells her about the e-mail and the pictures but is interrupted by Agent Casey, who wants to claim Chuck for the CIA. Sarah and Casey get into a Mexican standoff, but they're forced to back down when Chuck starts rambling about a Serbian demolitions expert planning to kill a NATO general in a nearby hotel. They race to the conference where they find the bomb (after encountering an uncomfortable amount of naked old men), but Chuck isn't sure on how to defuse it. In the middle of this tense situation, he gets a phone call from Morgan. Morgan mentions the virus he got and that gives Chuck an idea. He overrides the laptop and infects it with the virus which fries the computer and stops the bomb.
Now that they're not in mortal danger, Sarah and Casey argue over who gets Chuck. They start talking about his family and friends when Chuck steps in to tell them to leave them out of it and goes home, knowing that they need him. He goes to think things over on his own. Sarah tells him that he can go back to his normal life and he'll be protected by both the NSA and CIA, but he needs to keep things quiet about what's happened with everyone he knows. He goes back to work, applies for an assistant manager position and has another vision, this time of a woman killing people and shooting out a camera, when he sees the culprit in his store.
- "Cellphone's Dead" by Beck: After Chuck absorbs all of the e-mailed information and tosses Morgan the keys to the car, "Cellphone's Dead" by Beck plays in the background. "Cellphone's Dead" is the lead UK single off Beck's 2006 album The Information. The song notably featured a music video by noted director Michel Gondry.
- "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is" by Jet: The song that plays when Chuck and Sarah are getting ready for their date in their respective homes, the song "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is" by Australian rock band Jet. The song was, like the earlier Beck song, the lead UK single from the 2006 album.
- "A Comet Appears" by The Shins: When Chuck is on the beach thinking his new life over, "A Comet Appears" by The Shins plays. The song is the final track from the band's 2007 breakthrough album Wincing the Night Away.
- Vintage High Tech: The computer Bryce copies all the government secrets from is actually an Apple Macintosh Classic from the early 1990s.
Behind the Scenes
- Cut Scene: One scene from the original pilot was removed from the broadcast version. When Chuck is leading Sarah and Casey to the room where the General is speaking, they originally passed through a sauna with a great deal of male nudity. This entire sequence was removed (likely at the behest of NBC executives) so that they immediately find the conference room.
Allusions and References
- Banlieue 13: The escape sequence after Bryce downloads all of the defense computer's information is directly copied from a similar escape by parkour founder David Belle in the French film Banlieue 13. In the movie, Leïto (Belle) was escaping from some drug dealing gangsters after he destroyed their cocaine. The Bryce chase in this episode is nearly shot for shot, with some bits cut out, until the end when he's shot instead of getting away as in Banlieue 13.
- Zork: When Chuck gets the e-mail from Bryce, it's encode in the form of a customized Zork file. Zork was, as Chuck said, a text-based game written in the late 1970s and later released between 1980 and 1983 by Infocom. The games involved an unnamed adventurer attempting to discover treasure in a sprawling underground labyrinth.
- CHiPs: When Chuck blurts out something about the police being in phased deployment, Morgan calls him "Ponch." Francis "Ponch" Poncherello was an officer with the California Highway Patrol on the NBC sitcom CHiPs played by Erik Estrada.
- Morgan: Thanks for the tip, Ponch.
- Batman: When Sarah first shows up at the store, Morgan says "Stop the presses, who is that?" To which Chuck responds with a bit of beatboxing and repeating "Vickie Vale." This is a reference to a song by Prince from the 1989 Batman soundtrack, specifically "Batdance." Vale was a love-interest for Bruce Wayne in the movie played by Kim Basinger.
- Chuck: It's from Batman.