Kayla Hart and the Chuck That Almost Was
(An updated revision of an article that originally ran on ChuckTV.net in September of 2009)
It is an unassailable fact that, in the “Chuckverse”, no topic generates more impassioned debate than the relationship between Chuck and Sarah. This can be witnessed empirically by simply counting the number of posts in forum topics dedicated to alternate characters and their relationships. Nothing else even comes close.
But many people have forgotten, or maybe never knew, that Sarah was only one of Chuck’s original love interests. There was someone else, someone close by, that Chuck would be secretly pining for from day one. That’s right, geometry haters – the show nearly launched with Chuck embroiled in a love triangle. Who was the vixen who would further complicate the sweet but fragile dawning of affection between our star-crossed lovers?
Her name was Kayla Hart.
Kayla was Chuck’s next door neighbor. Single, twenty-five and heavily into the indie music scene, Kayla worked at the ticket counter of Spaceland, the very same club Chuck took Sarah to in the pilot. The original script for this episode describes Kayla as “…one of the world’s most beautiful fuckups…”, stylish but frugal by necessity.
Kayla was played by Natalie Martinez, a Cuban-American actress and model most famously known for her portrayal of Elizabeth Case in Paul W.S. Anderson’s big budget smash ‘em up, ‘Death Race.’ She brought a raw, visceral sex appeal to that role and judging from the publicity photos for the pilot, she would have evinced a similar quality in her Chuck character.
So what else can we learn from the pilot script? Kayla likes Chuck, in a casually friendly way, but doesn’t really see him as boyfriend material. She’s drawn to musicians, and due to her job she has ample opportunities to hook up with them – and demonstrates it, much to Chuck’s chagrin. She’s a little flighty (“Who knew driving under the influence included pot?”), disorganized (she’s lost her keys) and desirous of opportunities in life that haven’t yet been opened for her (she’d like to travel ‘anywhere James Bond has been’).
Chuck, for his part, is clearly attracted to Kayla. In a telling moment, he watches from the garbage cans as she returns home, oblivious to his attention. His hesitant greeting is too late and too quiet to catch her, and the pitiable performance is witnessed and critiqued by Ellie and Morgan. It’s yet another reminder of how far Chuck’s confidence has fallen after Jill.
Morgan has his back, however, and after Sarah invites Chuck to show her around Morgan calls Kayla to tell her Chuck’s coming to the club with a date. As he advises Chuck, “nothing turns a girl on like jealousy.” And while Chuck thinks it’s a bad idea, things go surprisingly well – Kayla is impressed by Chuck’s companion and secretly roots for him, while Sarah notices something between Kayla and Chuck that she files away for future reference.
So that’s what was going to happen. But what happens next? How might the first season have unfolded with Kayla in the mix?
First we have to consider what Kayla represents. In some ways, she’s the antithesis of Sarah. Where Sarah is disciplined and precise, Kayla is disorganized and informal. Where Sarah is aloof and evasive, Kayla is open and unguarded. But in one way, Sarah and Kayla are the same: they both symbolize worlds that are alien to Chuck.
While Sarah is a poster child for the cold and ruthless spy world, a study in dispassionate, duplicitous lethality, Kayla represents the gritty, underground music scene – cliquish, mysterious and gangland dangerous. In both of these environments, Chuck is a ‘fish out of water’, ill at ease and conspicuously awkward.
It is around these two disparate stars that Chuck would be hurled in the first season, on a trajectory to orbit first one woman and then the other. Just as viewers might begin to think he was captured irrevocably by one’s gravity, events would conspire to thrust him back towards the other. Too close to Sarah? There’s always Bryce or the “it wouldn’t be professional” rejection. Too close to Kayla? There could be a violent ex-boyfriend, or a criminal involvement conflict of interest.
A perfect, revolving angst generation machine. Oh, joy.
Want a quick vision of what that might have been like? Just replace ‘Lou/Deli’ with ‘Kayla/Spaceland’ and stir vigorously. With every scene in that arc, you could make a few adjustments for character and location and have a plausible replacement. But instead of two episodes, think thirteen.
How would it have worked out in the end? Hard to say. But I personally believe that the show would’ve been ultimately unsatisfying if Chuck and Sarah’s intertwined journeys hadn’t led them to a more committed future together. And for them to have that future, Kayla would have to become a part of Chuck’s past, like Lou, Jill and Hannah.
When would that have happened? By the end of the first season, I would hope. One thing seems certain, though. Kayla’s inclusion would have meant reduced time (or even exclusion) of other characters and possibly even the elimination of scenes that are now enshrined in our memories. Going back through these in my mind, I’m having a hard time imagining that it would have been worth it. So for this choice, I have to say to Josh and Chris: Good call.