Stephen J. Bartowski

Stephen Bartowski
Seasons:Season 2, Season 3
Portrayed by:Scott Bakula
Status: Deceased (2010)
Occupation:Former CIA Engineer
Aliases:Orion (codename)
Relatives: Mary Bartowski (widow)
Charles Bartowski (son)
Eleanor Woodcomb (daughter)
Devon Woodcomb (son-in-law)
Sarah Bartowski (daughter-in-law)
Clara Woodcomb (grand-daughter)
Residence:Twin Pines Cabin (season 3)
Appearances: List of appearances
Don't worry, Charles. I'm not who you think I am, either.

Stephen J. Bartowski was the estranged father of Chuck and Ellie Bartowski. He was portrayed by Scott Bakula.

Under the code name, Orion, Stephen was the chief designer and creator of the Intersect and became a human Intersect when he uploaded an early Intersect into his brain.

Biography Edit

Few details about Stephen's life have been revealed. His wife, Mary left home when Chuck was in the fifth grade[1] and although he loved his children, Chuck describes him in "Chuck Versus the Sizzling Shrimp" as "never really there."

Stephen is a computer and software genius who attended graduate school with Ted Roark, whom Stephen would later accused of stealing all of his best ideas.[2] Sometime after the end of his association with Roark, he went to work for the government. He worked with Dr. Jonah Zarnow[3] and Dr. Howard Busgang (code named Perseus) [4] on the Intersect computer database, where he was the head of the project under the code name Orion.

Stephen would later tell Chuck in "Chuck Versus the Dream Job" regarding the Intersect that he designed "just the really cool parts". He would later reveal to Chuck that he tested the Intersect on himself, and thus possesses an older version of it himself.[5]

Stephen later learned what the government intended to do with the Intersect, and knowing that others would want it, too, he stole the original Cipher and wiped all his data before going into hiding forthe  five years before the events of the series, at which point he became the target of a major global manhunt by the NSA.[6] General Beckman had stated that she was personally involved with the search.[2] In an effort to protect his children, Stephen decided the best thing to do was to leave and distance himself from them. Ten years before the events of "Chuck Versus the Dream Job", Stephen went into hiding after promising to make his children pancakes for dinner.

With only his code name to go on, Stephen was targeted both by the government and Fulcrum. Fulcrum assigned Vincent to the task of tracking him down.[7] The five years he was in hiding were spent constantly on the move, and had faked his death on at least several occasions.[2] Stephen's mastery of computer systems allowed him to stay one step ahead of his pursuers, to the point that the NSA issued a directive that all communication pertaining to the hunt for Orion be carried out via non-electronic means.[6]

"Chuck Versus the Ring" reveals that Stephen had asked Bryce Larkin to look out for his son, and to keep him away from the Intersect project. However, it was Bryce's familiarity with Stephen and the Intersect that played a role in his decision to send it to Chuck.

Series Edit

Stephen first becomes a major part of the ongoing arc in "Chuck Versus the Sensei", when Chuck promises Ellie that he will find their father to walk her down the aisle at her wedding. At that time, Stephen's most recent known location was in Las Vegas, Nevada. Chuck's search turns up mostly dead-ends, and Ellie resigns herself to the search failing.

Stephen first appears as Orion in "Chuck Versus the Predator". Fulcrum agent Vincent tracks him to Hong Kong, but Orion nearly kills him with a MQ-9 Reaper armed UAV and manages to escape Vincent and the other Fulcrum agents. Chuck attracts his father's attention when he begins an off-book search for Orion after being alerted by Howard Busgang that Orion could help him remove the Intersect. Orion later attempts to arrange a meeting with Chuck, but interference by Beckman allows Vincent to catch up with Chuck and ambush both him and Orion. Orion later escapes by faking his death by directing a Reaper drone with his Wrist Computer to shoot down the helicopter that Chuck believes he is aboard. Before this incident, Orion had left Chuck plans for the Fulcrum Intersect to guide his son on his personal quest to remove the Intersect from his brain. He also warns Chuck not to trust Casey or Sarah with the information.

Later, Sarah makes an unauthorized CIA database search for Stephen on Chuck's behalf as he had been wishing to meet his father again for a very long time. Stephen allows her to successfully locate him after his son's efforts failed.[8] In "Chuck Versus the Dream Job", Chuck and Sarah meet with him in his trailer, and although initially reluctant, Stephen agrees to accompany him home.
The reunion with his daughter goes less smoothly however, and Stephen is upset to learn Chuck has accepted a job with his former rival, Ted Roark. Stephen later tells Chuck that it was fine by him if he wanted to work for Roark after Ellie accuses him of putting Chuck up to wrecking the release of Roark's new computer operating system, which Chuck believes would release a worldwide computer virus.

Chuck connects Orion's Intersect schematics with a map of Roark's office compound given to him by Stephen, and he infiltrates the building on his own after Casey and Sarah refuse to believe his argument that Roark was building an Intersect. Stephen takes advantage of the opportunity and goes to Roark's offices himself under the guise of asking Roark not to fire Chuck for disrupting his software launch earlier. There, he reveals the truth of his history and his Orion identity to Chuck when the latter tranquilizes Roark's security guards as they crowded against Stephen. Stephen then attempts to help remove the Intersect from Chuck. He finds his way through a hidden Fulcrum Intersect room and uses Roark's Intersect Cube to erase the Intersect from his son. Stephen refers to the Intersect Cube as the Intersect 2.0. However, the Intersect Cube is incomplete and Stephen cannot get it to work. After Stephen and Chuck are surrounded by Roark, Vincent, and a team of Fulcrum agents, Stephen convinces Roark to release Chuck if he agrees to help him finish the Intersect. As Sarah and Casey, who had tracked them, take Chuck away to safety, Stephen admits that he was wrong when he told Chuck not to trust his handlers. Chuck is unable to tell Ellie the truth about what happened to their father, so she is left believing he had deserted them once more.

Stephen Bartowski S2

At Ellie's wedding

Chuck began another search for him, first by using the Fulcrum operative in custody, Jill Roberts, which eventually led him to flash on the location where he was being held.[9] Sarah and Chuck later go on an unauthorized mission to rescue him, with the now promoted Colonel John Casey in pursuit of them. Eventually, Chuck's handlers rescue Stephen at a Fulcrum headquarters at Black Rock after he completes the Intersect Cube for Fulcrum. However, he had encoded it with images to erase the Intersect from Chuck's mind rather than encode images into the minds of Fulcrum agents. Stephen manages to save the Intersect Cube before escaping and is escorted with Team Bartowski. The base was immediately destroyed by the F-16 fighter jets of which Beckman had ordered. Chuck eventually brings him back to Ellie for the rehearsal dinner, explaining his tardiness to Ellie by stating he had to get her wedding present.

In "Chuck Versus the Ring", Stephen aided Bryce, Sarah, and Chuck in thwarting Roark's attempt to kill Ellie in exchange for the Intersect Cube. He also agreed to turn over the Intersect Cube to Bryce because he knew Bryce could be trusted. Later on, when Chuck was determined to help Sarah protect the Intersect Cube from the incoming Ring agents, he gave his Wrist Computer to his son.

In "Chuck Versus the Living Dead", Stephen returns out of hiding once more when he receives an encrypted message in the newspaper from Ellie requesting to meet with him. Still unaware that his son downloaded the Intersect 2.0, Stephen is very surprised to see Casey and Sarah are still in Chuck's life when he is supposedly no longer a spy. Chuck continues lying to his father when he asks, telling him that he is no longer a spy and the reason that Sarah is in his life is because she is actually now his girlfriend, and not just a cover. When the couple supposedly go out on a date that is actually a mission to Daniel Shaw's apartment, Stephen follows them and in the process saves his son. Chuck tries to keep his spy life secret from his father only to be forced into revealing his secret after Stephen throws a knife at his face which causes the Intersect 2.0 to ascertain and neutralize the incoming threat. Chuck catches the knife in mid-air, confirming Stephen's suspicion of his son downloading the Intersect 2.0. Stephen reveals that he's aware of the negative side effect the 2.0 can have on the brain and he may have a way to help fix the problem.

Stephen at work

As Stephen leaves, he is intercepted by Ellie who places a homing device on him under the orders of CIA Agent Justin Sullivan for his own protection, when in fact it was meant to track his whereabouts solely for the Ring. Returning to one of his secret hideouts, Stephen examines his watch which is revealed to be a device he created for himself called the Governor, which helps him control his own Intersect that at point was slowly killing him. Stephen attempts to create a newer version of the Governor for Chuck. Unfortunately a team of Ring operatives sent by Justin attack him at his base searching for the Governor. Thanks to the timely arrival of Chuck and Sarah, they are able to prevent the Governor from falling into the hands of the Ring for now.

It is later revealed that the reason the Ring was tracking Stephen is because he possessed the Governor, a device designed to prevent a human Intersect from falling into dementia and eventually insanity due to continual flashing. Once Stephen had determined that Chuck had downloaded the Intersect 2.0, he began to fabricate a Governor for him.

The device was completed in "Chuck Versus the Subway". When Daniel Shaw sprung his trap where he purposely led Team Bartowski to assault a CIA headquarters under the belief of it being a Ring base, Stephen then helps his son escape CIA custody, and when Chuck insisted on going back to rescue Sarah and Casey, though reluctant at first, he accompanied his son in the rescue effort. After discovering both a room housing the Ring Intersect as well as a lab in the real Ring base where Shaw was revived when he was shot and killed by Chuck previously before, Shaw, Justin and the other Ring operatives surround and confront Stephen and Chuck as they attempt to leave. Justin then grabs the Governor from Chuck, to which Chuck challenges Shaw into fighting using martial arts skills from the Intersect. To break Chuck emotionally, Shaw shoots Stephen in the chest, mortally wounding him. Moments from dying, Stephen takes his last moments to remind Chuck that he is special.

With his death, an automated recording was delivered to Chuck's computer in "Chuck Versus the Ring: Part 2", directing him to the family's old home. Stephen revealed he had been working as a spy for himself, in secret against Alexei Volkoff that the government could not deal with, in which his wife Mary was "somehow involved".

It was revealed in "Chuck Versus Agent X" that the first intersect was not Chuck, but Hartley Winterbottom, code named AGENT X. But went wrong and Hartley became his cover, Alexei Volkoff.  It was this disaster that led to Stephen's and Mary's eventual submersion in the spy world, leaving their children behind.

Development Edit

Scott Bakula was announced to be playing the role of Stephen Bartowski in January, 2009 as part of an extended arc to close out the season.[10] In addition to his resemblance to Zachary Levi, Bakula was cast as Stephen Bartowski because Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak consider themselves huge Quantum Leap fans, and found Bakula's ability to jump from comedy to drama to action reminiscent of Zachary Levi's.[11] Chris Fedak has stated that Stephen Bartowski being Orion was part of the show's background mythology from the conception of the series, describing Chuck as Luke Skywalker and born into his role, rather than Peter Parker, who stumbled into it.[12]

Critical reaction to Bakula's performance has been overwhelmingly positive. Bakula was praised for his off-beat and slightly crazy performance,[13] and was noted as being the ideal casting choice.[14]

Numerous references were made to Stephen throughout the first and second season building towards his introduction, including his "Aces, Charles," referenced in the Pilot by Ellie,[15] and used by Stephen himself in "Chuck Versus the Dream Job". Amusingly, Chuck wore one of his father's suits to Bryce Larkin's funeral,[3] despite actor Zachary Levi being at least 4 inches taller than Bakula.

Several times during Bakula's appearances, Chuck uttered the phrase 'oh,boy' the signature remark of Bakula's Quantum Leap character.

Personality Edit

When first introduced in "Chuck Versus the Dream Job", Stephen is shown as highly disheveled, paranoid, and eccentric. Chuck and Ellie both have called him as "a little crazy", as he insists on having played a part in the development of touch-screen, plasma television, and other major technologies, as well as for his accusations that Ted Roark stole all of his best ideas. Chuck has said he was "never really there" when their mother had left them, leaving Chuck and Ellie largely to fend for themselves.[16] He took a quick liking to Devon and advised him on how to handle the rough patch he was in with Ellie after the events of his bachelor party.[8] Despite his quirks, Chuck tells Stephen he misses his advice.

Stephen is brilliant and tech-savvy, and after revealing his true identity to Chuck also proved to be highly competent and showing hand-to-hand combat, easily taking control of the security doors and disabling Vincent when the Fulcrum operative attempted to capture them in Roark's offices. He considers the Intersect the greatest thing he ever created, after his two children, and suggested that Chuck may be an even better engineer than he was. Although Stephen abandoned them many years earlier, he loves his children dearly and only left to protect them from those who wanted his knowledge. His relationship to Bryce Larkin shows he was always keeping tabs on his children, to the point of becoming aware of the fact that Chuck's friend had been recruited by the CIA. He saved Chuck's life by agreeing to aid Ted Roark in completing the Fulcrum Intersect if he (Roark) allowed Chuck to walk away.[2] However, he double-crossed Roark and FULCRUM by programming it to only erase the Intersect from Chuck.

In "Chuck Versus the Ring", Stephen apprehended Roark, when the latter attempted to kill Ellie, by knocking him cold. Stephen mentioned he had been waiting twenty years for that opportunity. It is revealed that he has the ability to retain vast amounts of visual information which is hereditary, as shown in Chuck.

Death Edit

In "Chuck Versus the Subway", he and Chuck visit a secret base that housed the the Ring Intersect. Chuck and Stephen, when entering the base tripped a silent alarm while Casey and Sarah were being held in CIA custody by Shaw, who was quickly informed that they entered the Ring base instead of attempting to rescue them. When Chuck and Stephen emerge from the base they were immediately being held at gun point by Shaw and his men.

Stephen reminds Chuck he is special

Justin grabs the Governor from Chuck. Shaw then shoots and kills Stephen in order to prevent Chuck from using the Intersect knowing he has difficulty accessing the Intersect's data when being emotionally conflicted. Chuck used his emotion to fuel his and his team's efforts to bring down The Ring. Later, Chuck's memories of his father's dying words: "You're special son," helped Chuck access an old memory of previously uploading an early Intersect as a child, thereby rebooting his current Intersect, allowing him to defeat Shaw and reclaim The Governor.

Bryce Edit

Judging by the conversion Bryce and Stephen are seen having in "Chuck Versus the Ring", it could be assumed that they have a long-standing history together. Bryce acknowledging he knows about Stephen being Orion shows this connection was not sanctioned by the CIA. Stephen could have been involved, with Bryce, in getting Chuck kicked out of Stanford.

In "Chuck Versus the Break-Up", Bryce gives a pair of Intersect Glasses with contained an update for the First Intersect with new intelligence data. Neither Sarah, Casey or Beckman ever mention the update and may not have known. The update could have been made by Orion.Further evidence that these glasses may not have been government issue is that, unlike the glasses Decker sent Chuck at the end of Season 4, these glasses needed the subject to be Identified before being uploaded.

Trivia Edit

  • Scott Bakula referenced his previous role as Dr. Sam Beckett on Quantum Leap when Ellie was upset seeing him the first time and told him off over the pancakes he promised to make for dinner just before he disappeared. Stephen only managed to respond with "Oh boy!" This was the catch phrase of Sam, who would utter this whenever he "leaped" into a new body and discovered his new (and typically dangerous, embarrassing or compromising) situation.
  • Bakula further referenced Quantum Leap while hosting the lead-in to Chuck during the airing of "Chuck Versus the Dream Job," on April 6, 2009, when he remarked about feeling like he'd been there before, but that being quite a leap. Quantum Leap aired on NBC, where Chuck also ran.
  • There is a visual reference to Quantum Leap in Chuck Versus the Colonel, the abandoned movie theater where Ted Roark tries to turn his agents into intersect agents is called Starbright Drive-in. In Quantum leap 'Starbright' was the code name of the project that Al Calavicci, Dr. Sam Beckett and Donna Eleese were working on before project Quantum leap.
  • Stephen's wrist-mounted computer is a nod to the similar device worn by the aliens in the Predator films,though it could also be a nod towards Nintendo's Power Glove, or the Pip-boy 3000 of the Fallout game franchise in which Zachary Levi provides voice for Arcade Gannon in Fallout: New Vegas.

External Links Edit

References Edit

  1. "Chuck Versus the Best Friend"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Chuck Versus the Dream Job"
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Chuck Versus the Helicopter"
  4. "Chuck Versus the Lethal Weapon"
  5. "Chuck Versus the Ring"
  6. 6.0 6.1 Spy Dossiers
  7. "Chuck Versus the Predator"
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Chuck Versus the Broken Heart"
  9. "Chuck Versus the First Kill"
  10. Cast Update: January 16, 2009,
  11. Development Update: January 26, 2009: From Inside the Box
  12. Interview: April 7, 2009: What's Alan Watching
  13. Review: April 6, 2009:
  14. Review: April 6, 2009: The Futon Critic
  15. "Chuck Versus the Intersect"
  16. "Chuck Versus the Sizzling Shrimp"

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