This post is largely based on Michael’s great comment to the post Chuck Vs Love. I have added pictures and made some adjustments to the format and language. I have also added a section about romantic love since Michael has not rewatched Season 5 and commented about Casey’s love affair with Gertrude.

The dichotomy between real love and spy love, explored in the post Chuck Vs. Love, can also be examined through Casey’s life journey, which develops his fraternal, parental, and romantic relationships throughout the show.

The Beginning

Casey is introduced as a cold-school killer, a burnout. He shoots Bryce in cold blood and has no problem eliminating other government agents who stand in his way.

Casey: Chuck Bartowski’s your mark. NSA director wants him with a pulse. Till we find out who he’s working with and what he knows, he lives. CIA skirt… you can kill.

1.01 Chuck Versus the Intersect - Casey: CIA skirt...you can kill.

In the next episode, we can see that he and Sarah do not trust each other. By the time we get to 1.08 Chuck Versus the Truth, however, he is pleasantly surprised when Sarah calls him her partner.

Sarah: Freeze. My partner would rather shoot you in the face than let you get away.
Casey: You called me your partner?

1.08 Chuck Versus the Truth - You called me your partner?

Soon, Casey’s growing respect for Sarah turns into fraternal love.

Fraternal Love

This relationship is introduced as early as the very next episode. Here is the exchange between Casey and Sarah in the spy van in 1.09 Chuck Versus the Hard Salami:

Casey: Same bit with you, huh?
Sarah: What’s that supposed to mean?
Casey: You need me to spell it out? Fine. You fall for the guys you work with. First Bryce, now our boy Chuck.
Sarah: Bryce was a mistake, and I haven’t fallen for Chuck.
Casey: Yeah, whatever you say. And just so we’re clear, sister, not interested.

Chuck 1.09 - Chuck Versus the Hard Salami. Casey: not interested.

First-time viewers do not necessarily recognize the meaning of Casey’s words, but in retrospect, they are meant to establish the fraternal relationship between him and Sarah.

In 1.11 Chuck Versus the Crown Victoria, Casey chastizes Sarah for having compromised herself emotionally with their asset Chuck, but at the very end of the episode, Beckman calls Casey and says, “I hope you have not grown too fond of the subject. I would hate for you to be compromised. Oh, and John…” We can see from Casey’s reaction when he responds, “Yeah?” that he is also compromised.

Chuck 1.11 Crown Vic - Casey is compromised

1.12 Chuck Versus the Undercover Lover is the episode where Chuck and Casey’s fraternal relationship is established. Chuck becomes Casey’s emotional handler with the latter’s emotional involvement with spy Ilsa, and this represents the beginning of a beautiful spy friendship between them, which will be later mirrored in 3.09 Chuck Versus the Beard with the beginning of a beautiful spy friendship between Chuck and Morgan and between Casey and Morgan.

1.12 vs 3.09 Chuck walking in Casey's shoes

In 1.13 Chuck Versus the Marlin, Casey is well aware of Sarah’s anguish at the idea of losing Chuck who is on his way to get bunkered; he lovingly tells her that he will look for the FULCRUM agent (the pita girl) while Sarah can go find Chuck.

Beckman: Forget about Chuck, Agent Walker. Focus on catching that FULCRUM agent.
Casey: We’re on it….We, meaning I go get Lizzie while you find Chuck. Well, don’t make me change my mind.

1.13 Chuck Versus the Marlin - Casey: I go get Lizzie while you find Chuck.

Fraternal and parental love are frowned upon in the spy world just as romantic love is, yet they influence the characters’ journeys and are important in their own right. In the same way that romantic love allows Sarah to regain her humanity, real fraternal love allows Casey to regain his own by shifting and fine-tuning his values, becoming a better agent, and being able to find a surrogate family. It is not a coincidence that Casey is a marine as the corps’ motto is Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful).

When it comes to fraternal love, which nowadays we might call a bromance, we think of Chuck and Morgan. Chuck is Batman, and Morgan is his Alfred, or Chuck is Han Solo to Morgan’s Chewbacca. The two have a codependent relationship, serving as each other’s anchors. Chuck and Morgan’s bromance is even ranked 4th on Watchmojo’s Top-Ten TV Bromances and 9th on their TV-Best-Buds list. We might say, however, that Casey and Chuck’s bromance and Casey’s and Morgan’s bromance are more consequential in terms of character growth. Although Casey’s journey is slower when compared to Sarah’s, who fell in love with Chuck in the pilot episode, it is still a significant arc.

We know in Season 1 and at the beginning of Season 2, Casey thinks Chuck is a good person, and this budding respect makes him hesitant to kill Chuck when the order comes down, but he might still be capable of carrying out that order, albeit at a tremendous personal cost.

An important moment in Casey’s fraternal love journey is 2.09 Chuck Versus the Sensei. After the Jill episodes show Chuck that feelings can be a liability, the following episode reminds us of the same problem as Casey is now benched for turning the mission of taking down Ty Bennet into a personal one. Bennet was Casey’s sensei, and this fact makes Ty’s betrayal the source of disruption for Casey’s unemotional (calm) center, which results in Casey putting Chuck’s life in danger, for which he is benched by Beckman.

We viewers are given an insight into Casey’s psyche when he vents to Sarah that years in the business have taught him that people always let you down. This attitude is a symptom of the lack of well-meaning friendships in the spy world. However, this belief is first challenged when Sarah and Chuck help take down Bennet, culminating in Casey grunting out a brief “thank you” to Chuck at the end of the episode, an important stepping stone in his fraternal love journey. This conflict will be addressed again and in 3.10 Chuck Versus the Tic Tac when Chuck and Sarah help Casey protect Kathleen from his former commanding officer, demonstrating to Casey that the right people (friends) will not let you down. After Chuck helps Casey protect Kathleen, Casey will return the favor by helping Chuck “reacquire Agent Walker” in 3.12 Chuck Versus the American Hero.

Throughout the first three seasons, Casey constantly teases Chuck and Sarah, but he is there for them when they need him. In 2.21 Chuck Versus the Colonel, Casey helps them save Chuck’s father from FULCRUM and even gives Sarah the credit for the operation, a kind gesture that Sarah will pay forward to Chuck in season 3.

Chuck 2.21 vs 3.12 congratulations on mission's success comparison

In the last episode of Season 2, Casey is shocked at Chuck’s attempt to hug him and rejects the effort as unmanly. However, he praises Chuck’s spy work and gives him his business card in case Chuck needs help, even though he adds that Chuck’s fingers better be on fire when he dials the number. Of course, Casey will show up when Chuck does dial the number after Ted Roark and FULCRUM crash Ellie’s wedding.

At the very beginning of Season 3, in 3.01 Chuck Versus the Pink Slip, Casey acts as Sarah’s big brother when he asks what happened between her and Chuck, just as Ellie had asked her brother Chuck at the beginning of Season 1.

3.01 Chuck Versus the Pink Slip - Casey asks Sarah what happened between her and Chuck.

Casey will also start training Chuck to become a spy, just as Apollo trains Rocky in Rocky III.

3.01 Chuck Versus the Pink Slip - Chuck and Casey like Rocky and Apollo.

Casey will continue to mentor Chuck throughout Season 3. He will tell him how to get out of a tight spot on the plane in 3.05 Chuck Versus First Class and will praise Chuck’s impersonation of Rafe in 3.08 Chuck Versus the Fake Name. At the very end of 3.10 Chuck Versus the Tic Tac, right after Ellie unknowingly helps Chuck rethink his life priorities, Casey knowingly adds his brotherly bit of advice and then tells Chuck that Walker is a good woman and it’s not too late to go after her. This is a man who has come a long way from the cold-school killer and burnout he was at the beginning of the story.

Chuck 3.10 Rethinking Priorities

There are also examples of Casey’s spy friendships being more superficial than the fraternal love he experiences with Chuck and Sarah. We first see this in 2.22 Chuck Versus the Ring when Casey reunites with his NSA team. Walking through an airplane Casey jokingly asks, “Did you ladies get soft without me?” Obviously, this type of ragging is representative of male bonding, but it is a performative gesture, especially when compared to the more meaningful action of Casey using his team to set up Ellie’s beach wedding as a favor for Chuck. Casey is then caught off guard, but not emotionally devastated when one of his team members is a Ring Agent who eliminates his comrades and kills Ted Roark. This betrayal reinforces the spy world lesson that people let you down in the end, a conclusion that, as we have seen above, is only proven wrong when Casey starts working with Chuck, Sarah, and the spy team they build.

In 3.12 Chuck Versus the American Hero, we learn that Casey uses Morse Code to communicate with his marine buddies; although this is a funny insight, it also reveals the distance that marines and spies maintain to protect themselves by removing most human and emotional connections. From 2.21 Chuck Versus the Colonel, where Casey helps rescue Orion, until the end of Season 3a, Casey and Chuck become brothers in arms, culminating in Chuck protecting Kathleen and Casey helping Chuck rescue Sarah and capture the Ring director, which allows him to be reinstated.

At the end of 3.04 Chuck Versus Operation Awesome, Sarah tells Shaw that it is beneficial for a spy to know that they have something to lose (feelings can be an asset, not always a liability); this attitude can be applied to Casey when training spy Chuck, meeting Alex, and training Morgan. By the time of Season 3b, Casey is actively fighting against the lesson of the spy world that people let you down in the end and that feelings are a liability. In 3.16 Chuck Versus the Tooth, Casey acts like a temporary baggage handler with Sarah, telling her that they will visit Chuck in the psychiatric ward just because Chuck would like nothing better than to see her. Later, Casey is revealed to be at Dr. Dreyfuss’s home pleading for Chuck’s mental well-being.

Another significant fraternal love moment between Casey and Sarah takes place in 3.18 Chuck Versus the Subway. As Casey heads out to save Alex from Shaw’s team, he refers to Sarah as “Sarah” rather than Agent Walker, highlighting how their relationship has become more personal, in an episode in which emotionless Shaw appears to have the upper hand on Chuck, Sarah, and Casey by playing on their emotions and family affections, a temporary victory that will be reversed in the next and final episode of Season 3 when Shaw will be defeated by the power of Chuck’s emotional team.

Season 4 continues to explore Casey’s fraternal love towards Chuck and Sarah. He first helps Morgan carry out Chuck’s proposal submission in 4.11 Chuck Versus the Balcony. At the end of the episode, after Chuck’s proposal is interrupted by the CIA’s arrest of Sarah as a traitor, Casey encourages Chuck by sharing his proposal story in which he popped the question at a Buffalo bus station, imparting the lesson that there is no such thing as a perfect moment or spot, as long as you have the girl. Finally, in 4.13 Chuck Versus the Push Mix, Casey gives Devon a pep talk at the hospital, saying that he regrets missing Alex’s birth. We can be sure that in Season 1, Casey would never reveal these personal stories. Only through his newfound fraternal love for the Bartowski family and emotional mentoring with Morgan does he have the courage to make himself vulnerable and real.

Season 4 shows that Chuck and Sarah’s new role as the model spy couple can make Casey feel like a third wheel—the spy version of the same fear voiced by Morgan in 1.04 Chuck Versus the Wookiee. 4.05 Chuck Versus the Couch Lock highlights this fear as the only people at Casey’s funeral are either planted agents or people who want him dead (i.e., his old team who betrayed him for Iranian gold). In 4.08 Chuck Versus the Fear of Death, Casey is anxious about Chuck not being able to flash, believing it could mean he will be transferred back to Afghanistan, losing his friends and family. He tells Alex that he needs to protect himself from the emotional fallout if he is transferred. This anxiety forces him to pull back from his growing relationship with Alex and Morgan. In 4.16 Chuck Versus the Masquerade, he calls Morgan Charah’s child, projecting his feelings of dependency onto Morgan. In 4.18 Chuck Versus the A-Team, Casey tries to find a new purpose with a team of emotionally dead GRETAs, but Sarah reminds Casey in the same episode that they have been partners for four years, and his behavior feels like a betrayal of their friendship, a problem that will be resolved by the end of the episode when Casey returns to the Bartowskis’ fold once they prove that the team with feelings is the A-Team.

Throughout Season 4, Casey is Morgan’s spy mentor while Morgan is Casey’s baggage handler, allowing him to develop love for his friends and family. Casey and Morgan even act as temporary baggage handlers for Sarah in 4.09 Chuck Versus Phase Three with partial success. Still, they do join in on her rescue rampage through Thailand to save Chuck, who is Sarah’s real baggage handler.

Season 4 culminates with Chuck and Sarah’s wedding, and a very emotional Casey is there to celebrate the event with them. His presence and emotional reaction are a testament to his tremendous character growth, as this is the man who told Chuck and Sarah at the end of the first episode that he was going to go eat pancakes after killing them.

4.24 Chuck Versus the Cliffhanger - Casey emotional at Chuck and Sarah's wedding.

But Casey’s fraternal relationship with Chuck and Sarah does not end in Season 4. He will go into business with them and share the ups and downs of their spy adventure. Sarah even asks him to shift their business focus into cybersecurity once they all contemplate leaving the spy life.

Cold-school Casey represents an important expansion of the “real love vs. spy love” aspect of the story, as he grows from not being interested in his own feelings to giving Sarah her mission logs in 5.12 Chuck Versus Sarah because they have become friends. Bartowski has made them both a little soft.

The culmination of Casey’s fraternal relationship with Chuck and Sarah can be seen at the very end of the final episode of the series, when he leaves castle for the last time after the dissolution of the team (I’m not crying, you’re crying). He first hugs Chuck, who is going for a handshake, in a full reversal from the scene in 2.22 Chuck Versus the Ring when Chuck went for a hug and Casey only accepted a handshake.

5.13 Casey hugs Chuck

Casey then shakes Sarah’s hand, and when she seeks silent validation from Chuck, Casey cups her hand to call her attention back to him, then looks towards Chuck and winks at her—his silent message to her to put her trust in Chuck, an exceptional human being capable of turning even a cold-school burnout like Casey into an emotionally mature man willing to give real hugs.

 

Paternal Love

In 3.10 Chuck Versus the Tic Tac, we also learn that Casey has an adult daughter named after his real name Alex.

3.10 Chuck Versus the Tic Tac - Alex

We viewers learn this at the same time Chuck, Sarah, and Casey themselves find out the shocking truth.

3.10 Chuck versus the Tic Tac - Casey's shock

In 3.18 Chuck Versus the Subway, Casey finds and saves his daughter Alex right as Chuck loses his father Stephen (Orion), in a dramatic reminder about the circle of life. In the next episode, as the team works together to take down Shaw, Casey shows very relatable fatherly concerns about Morgan’s closeness with Alex.

3.19 Chuck Versus the Ring, Part 2 - Casey chokes Morgan.

In 4.03 Chuck Versus the Cubic Z, Casey says that his “priorities are the same: God, country, duty, corps;” yet he admits to thinking about calling Alex and being a part of her life. This is a significant step for a man who drunkenly told Chuck in 1.12 Chuck Versus the Undercover Lover that he does what he does (spying) “so all those other slobs out there can have it (kids, Little League practice, minivan, and Costco runs on the weekend).”

Season 4 adds a layer of paternal love to Casey’s character growth. At the end of 4.05 Chuck Versus the Couch Lock, Casey attends Morgan’s celebration of life party and gives permission for Morgan to date Alex, albeit with a fatherly threat to break Morgan’s everything if the latter breaks Alex’s heart. Casey has always been a welcomed guest at the Bartowski’s since Thanksgiving of Season 1 and is even at the party in 3.04 Chuck Versus Operation Awesome where Sarah has eyes only for Chuck. But Casey inviting Alex to join him at Morgan’s party signifies Casey’s being fully cognizant of being a part of the Bartowski family. Just as the Bartowskis are Sarah’s surrogate family, they also become Casey’s family. Casey is a confirmed family member in 4.13 Chuck Versus the Push Mix when Ellie calls him family. He later dishes out wise fatherly advice to an emotionally overwhelmed Devon, who is about to become a father, by encouraging him to not make the same mistake of not being a part of his kid’s life.

4.13 Chuck Versus the Push Mix - Casey advises Devon.

Casey’s genuine friendships with Chuck, Sarah, and Morgan, and his paternal relationship with Alex allow him to better fulfill his Semper Fidelis code and genuinely trust his team with his emotions.

Romantic Love

Casey’s romantic journey mirrors his fraternal and parental one. He starts off by denying love altogether as incompatible with duty. In Season 5, however, he starts a romantic relationship with fellow spy Gertrude, coached by none other than Sarah, who herself has long abandoned her “nothing but a spy” persona and has become a matchmaker.

5.03 Sarah coaches Casey and Gertrude

Casey and Gertrude’s romantic relationship in the spy world in season 5 mirrors Chuck and Sarah’s relationship over the first three seasons. Both Casey and Gertrude initially deny their feelings, even to themselves, and engage in a (not so symbolically subtle) sensual foreplay in Gertrude’s office that betrays their true feelings for each other.

5.03 Chuck Versus the Frosted Tips - Casey and Gertrude fight.

Casey progressively opens up to Gertrude but eventually objects to being her kept man (asset) while she tries to tell him that he is more than that, just as Chuck objected to being Sarah’s asset while she tried to make him understand he was more than that.

At the end of the story, Casey gets his fairy-tale ending, just like all the other characters, and, encouraged by Morgan and Alex, decides to romantically pursue Gertrude, just as Casey encouraged Chuck to romantically pursue Sarah at the end of 3.10 Chuck Versus the Tic Tac.

5.13 Chuck Versus the Goodbye - Casey going after Gertrude.

And the last frame we have of the man who once was a cold-school killer is that of a man who has chosen love and is being hugged by his daughter. Casey has completed his journey from burnout to brother, father, and lover.

5.13 Chuck Versus the Goodbye - Casey hugged by Alex.

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