WRITERS: Matt Miller & Scott Rosenbaum[SPOILERS] There's an excellent idea at the heart of "Chuck Versus Nacho Sampler", helping us realize just how much Chuck (Zachary Levi) and Sarah's (Yvonne Strahovski) roles on the show are gradually reversing. Unfortunately, there was also a rather untamed feeling to this episode's storylines, although things perked up in the last quarter...
DIRECTOR: Allan Kroeker
GUEST CAST: Kristin Kreuk, Fahim Anwar, Bonita Friedericy & Leslie-Anne Huff
The Ring have wired a large amount of cash into the bank account of hapless, nerdy recluse Manoosh (Fahim Anwar), meaning Chuck effectively gets to step into Sarah's shoes by befriending Manoosh under false pretenses and using him as an "asset" to gain intelligence on what the Ring have paid him to build. It's a role Chuck's reluctant to take on, knowing from first-hand experience how manipulated you can feel being used by the government and lied to, but he's nevertheless determined to prove his worth as a proper spy so agrees to be part of the deception. There leads to some fun sequences of Chuck trying to ingratiate himself into Manoosh's life and become his best buddy, by using his government connections to learn Manoosh's lifestyle habits and likes/dislikes (graphic novel Y: The Last Man, the titular nachos, etc.) Despite this prep, quicker results are still achieved by sending in Sarah wearing a vest top to fake a one-night stand with the aide of tranquilizer darts.
That process was echoed in this week's Buy More storyline, as Morgan (Joshua Gomez) took an instant liking to new employee Hannah (Kristin Kreuk), and pulled rank to have the likewise smitten Jeff (Scott Krinsky) and Lester (Vik Sahay) call off their amorous, creepy advances and instead use their skills as stalkers to feed him intel about Hannah's interests -- so he can impress her by outfitting his makeshift cupboard office with French art house cinema posters, play music from Swan Lake and ruminate on foreign cultures. I'm not going to gripe too much about the Buy More story this week, because I don't have the energy. You know my feelings by now: while some people think it's a hilarious core to the whole show, I usually just find it incredibly monotonous and dumb. Occasionally quite obnoxious, too. The Hannah storyline is going down a predictably path right now, but I'm hoping Kristin Kreuk's been given a character who's going to be more than an oblivious object of lust.
Second of Strahotness: seductive succubus?
There was also some intriguing ructions between Devon (Ryan McPartlin) and Ellie (Sarah Lancaster), after Ellie discovers that Chuck recently travelled to Paris and never told anyone (a fact later revealed to the equally mystified Morgan), and Devon's faltering attempts to protect Chuck's cover only aroused his wife's suspicions further. While this wasn't a major focus of the episode, it did result in a final scene where both Morgan and Ellie become united in their unshakeable feeling that Chuck is hiding something from them. I'm guessing we'll now have a few episodes of a Morgan/Ellie surveillance of Chuck to see what he gets up to on these "home installs" he's always using as an excuse for his frequent absence -- and it's about time, too.
What was a little surprising about this week's episode is how it suddenly threw us a curveball by revealing that Manoosh has actually created his own version of "Intersect 2.0" (a pair of sunglasses that can download various skills into your mind), which he takes to Dubai to sell at the international "Weap-Con" arms trade event, followed by his fuming Ring paymasters who want the product they financed for themselves. To me, it feels like Chuck's treading a familiar path with the idea The Ring want their own Intersect 2.0, as so much of season 2 was about Fulcrum trying to develop an Intersect 1.0. Together with the similarities with Hannah as this year's Jill (a sexy love rival for Sarah), I'm worried that these are signs Chuck's writers don't have many fresh ideas left to explore in the mythology of their show.
Overall, "Chuck Versus Nacho Sampler" was buoyed by the fact it gave us an interesting development of Chuck and Sarah's roles, bookending the episode with a scene from the "Pilot" where Sarah first entered the Buy More as a cool, detached CIA agent on a mission to manipulate Chuck as he's forced to do himself now. The actual story that exploration hung on wasn't especially brilliant, but it had its fair share of fun moments. However, I did get a strong feeling the writers missed a trick in not making Manoosh a female, which would have given Chuck's dishonesty far more emotional anguish, and made his mission a more accurate flipside of Sarah's original assignment.
1 FEBRUARY 2010: NBC, 8/7c