When I first saw the title of this week's Chuck, I assumed it would have something to do with a hot older woman (the return of Melinda Clarke's character, perhaps?). Instead, this turned out to be the much-anticipated episode that sent Chuck and Sarah back to Sarah's high school, with a mission involving Sarah's teenage nemesis (Nicole Richie). It was a little Grosse Pointe Blank and a lot awesome, so to talk about it, just read more.
So who is Sarah Walker, really? For a while in this episode, we (and Chuck) feel tantalizingly close to finding out, courtesy of Heather Chandler (hee!), the popular cheerleader to Sarah's high school nerd, who pops up in the Orange Orange one day and squeals with excitement over seeing "Jenny Burton." (Chuck: "Of all the tart, Asian-influenced frozen yogurt shops in all the towns in all the world, you walk into hers?") Chuck really thinks he's hit the jackpot when Heather's husband (played by Ben Savage — again, awesome) becomes the focus of their next mission, requiring a trip to Sarah's high school. I loved watching Chuck seize on the few bits of information he thought he now knew, asking Heather if "Jenny" grew up in the fun "house/condo/apartment" and saying he only has "364 and a quarter days to go" before figuring out her birthday.
Of course, things aren't that simple: Sarah is Jenny Burton . . . and Katie O'Connell, and Rebecca Franco, and probably more. She's the daughter of a con man and spent high school assuming alternate identities and being the kid whose dad was in prison. I give props to Yvonne Strahovski for how well she's playing Sarah's tender moments, and I appreciate the way this ties into Sarah's overall story, with the agent spotting Sarah's mad knife-throwing skills in the woods and suggesting she consider the CIA.
Meanwhile, the case is awfully convoluted, and I think my head will explode sorting out what led Heather to Sarah and resulted in their shower throwdown. So let's focus on the big things: Ben Savage's character thinking Chuck is a hardcore agent nicknamed Mad Dog is a great twist, and Casey really runs with it ("I parked in his spot once. This scar reminds me every day: Don't mess with Mad Dog."). And Nicole Richie not only holds her own in the acting department, but also proves to be a pretty competent fighter, getting knocked out only when Sarah finally dumps a big stone cougar on Heather's head — just in time to wander back into the auditorium, soaked and bloodied, and be named reunion queen. Also, "Smack My B*tch Up" is nothing short of an inspired musical choice.
Some other thoughts:
- Lester's "make me an offer" method was destined to end badly (Morgan: "That's part of the fun!"), but it was a great setup for a high school-style kegger in the Buy More that just made me think of Empire Records.
- I love that Casey's Buy More pricing gun is . . . a gun.
- It's funny to watch everybody downplay their skills (Heather just happened to pick up some karate, Sarah can expertly fillet a fish thanks to all those knife skills classes) — except for Chuck, who claims he took out the baddies in the bathroom thanks to "a self-defense thingie I took at the Y."
- I don't think I'm ever, ever going to get sick of jokes with Big Mike's marlin. Also, does this mean the assistant manager job is open?
What did you all think? Satisfied with your taste of Sarah's past? Still laughing at Casey dancing to "MMMBop"?
Photos courtesy of NBC