Chuck (S02E04): “Chuck Versus the Cougars”

Grade: B+

This week’s Chuck is all about flashing back on Sarah’s past, when she was still a nerdy girl named Jenny, and forward to her current life, which is interrupted when her past catches up with it. It’s an hour filled up by a soundtrack that makes the 90’s kid in me both want to get up and dance (To Chumbawamba’s “Tubmthumper”) and cringe (to The Backstreet Boys), but also an hour for nerds across America to believe they too can share cheeseburgers with impossibly gorgeous women with pasts more normal than they’d like anyone to know.

In “Chuck Versus the Cougars” we get the season’s biggest twist yet: Nicole Richie can act. While it’s not a performance worthy of any awards, she plays the part of the stuck-up, popular cheerleader well, maybe only because it’s not much of a stretch personality wise. Heather (Richie) and her nerd husband (Ben Savage) run across their former high school classmate, Jenny, and secrets Sarah does not want coming to the surface start tunelling back into the light. Chuck’s loving the information overload, but Sarah’s visibly frustrated and kicking the crap out of a punching bag to try and channel her anger (lest anyone made of flesh and blood get hurt instead). Sarah’s past turns out to be shockingly average (Nerdy girl gets picked on, dad gets arrested to protect him from shady characters he was doing business with, and she gets pulled into the CIA), but it makes her seem more real and, for Chuck, not so cosmically distant from a nerd like him.

Heather has married a man much like Chuck–a guy who’s a little geeky, considers math a fun hobby, and likes ties–and Chuck and her hubby get a chance to have a little nerd pow-wow at Sarah’s high school reunion. But to him, Chuck “Mad Dog” Bartowski is the epitome of cool, while Chuck on the other hand sees himself as just as much a nerd and just as incredibly lucky to have a woman like Sarah at his side. Except the problem is neither Sarah or Heather are truly with these guys. Heather turns out to be the one blackmailing her husband into turning over his top-secret fighter jet plans (though if he ever finds this out, the episode doesn’t show it) and only got with him with dollar-signs in her eyes, and Sarah has genuine feelings for Chuck, but last week already made clear the line that must be drawn between them.

Or did it? The episode ends with Chuck and Sarah sharing a quiet moment that feels very much like a moment between a loving couple and the line that was drawn already seems to be smearing. One of the supposed reasons Chuck gave for distancing himself was that he would never know her real name, but now he does, even if he doesn’t care near as much about who she was as he does about who she is. He likes the idea that she was as normal or maybe more normal than him as a kid, but when he passes on her offer to probe deeper into her previous life it shows that knowing her real name means very little when he is very obviously in love with Sarah, not Jenny.

The Buy More story was once again mostly a miss for me. I thought the part about haggling with customers to move more units was amusing, and Lester explaining it by announcing” this is a teaching hospital!” seemed like some sort of jab at Grey’s Anatomy. However, the idea to throw a big frat-type party at the store was just too insanely stupid for me to follow. I get that these employees aren’t the brightest, and their quirks make them fun to watch, but raising money to make up or the products they essentially gave away by hosting a party in an electronics store just makes no sense. Of course, the party turns out to be the total disaster it promised to be, but the crew pulls together, cleans the place up, and manages to impress Big Mike when he returns from his time away.

The only real good I found coming from this story was the humanizing of Lester, by allowing him to screw up horrendously only to have all the people he treats so badly have his back and help him save face. It gives him an idea that maybe there are decent people and that he should treat others with some kindness, but it’s probably safe to say those heart-warming realizations won’t stick with him too long. He also resigns from his position, leaving it up for grabs again. I wonder who will take it this time?

There were two YouTube worthy clips in this hour: The first being Casey as the high school reunion DJ and the other being the extended fight between Sarah and Heather, first in a locker room, then in said locker room’s shower (where they get very wet and bloody), and finally with Sarah’s foot in Heather’s face and Heather’s face in a shattered trophy case. It was like a clip tailor made for The Man Show or something.

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2 Responses to “Chuck (S02E04): “Chuck Versus the Cougars””

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