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.