Welcome back fellow Chuck-sters. Grab your favorite appetizer as we recap “Chuck vs. Nacho Sampler.” If you missed last week’s first class installment of Chuck, check out a recap here.
The episode begins with a flash back to three years ago when Sarah made her first entrance into the Buy More. Over the scene, Morgan asks Chuck if he remembers what it was like to be struck with love at first sight. The new apple of Morgan’s eye has just walked in: Hannah, dressed in the epitome of geek chic, the woman’s Nerd Herd uniform. Hannah asks Chuck if he has any advice for a new Nerd Herder. Chuck explains that he likes to consider himself Jack Hanna, in a wilderness of creepy coworkers. Chuck promises he will protect her from the likes of Jeff and Lester, who have already honed in on their prey. Protection will have to wait, however, as Casey slaps Chuck on the shoulder with a forceful, “Yogurt Time!” As Chuck leaves, Jeff lays claim to Hannah, “I’m gonna hit that.” Lester informs Jeff he is up to the challenge, “May the best stalker win.”
In Castle, the team is informed that Shaw is on a covert operation. Asset Bartowski…ahem…Agent Bartowski Chuck interjects. He informs General Beckman that he’s been on his first solo “mish.” He’s a spy now so he should be referred to as “agent.” Needless to say, the General is not amused. Anyway, a monitored Ring bank account has shown a recent transfer of a large amount of money to a civilian account traced to a Manoosh Depak. Manoosh is a trained computer engineer who dropped out of MIT. Due to his similar background, the General orders Chuck to develop Manoosh as an asset, and find out what he is doing for The Ring. Chuck, brimming with confidence after his Paris mission, promises he will have it done by lunch. Sarah tells Chuck that developing an asset is not that easy; Chuck must get the asset to trust him completely, knowing that one day he will likely have to burn the asset. Casey instructs Chuck to find the hole in Manoosh’s life and fill it: Manoosh is lonely and has no friends, so Chuck should befriend him. Chuck moves to the Buy More floor to find Manoosh. Hannah finds Manoosh first and tries to see to his computer needs, so Chuck has to run interference and send the “hottie” away. Chuck’s efforts to befriend Manoosh are a bit…strong, and, in fact, bordering on cheesy pick-up lines. “Get a room, Bartowski,” Casey growls into Chuck’s earpiece. Chuck bumbles his way through the seduction, eventually giving a pretty frightened Manoosh his business card. “I stand corrected. He’s not ready,” Casey comments. “Thank you,” Sarah gleefully retorts.
Devon is lying on the couch in a semi-comatose state when Ellie startles him. She asks him why he hasn’t been himself lately. He hasn’t been rock climbing or bike riding (you know, being awesome), but rather just laying around watching TV. It’s like being married to Morgan, she notes. Devon assures her it’s nothing: he’s simply pulled a hammy. Ellie asks Devon if he’s noticed anything weird about Chuck. She found a Charles deGaulle airport claim ticket in his bags and wonders if Chuck really went to Paris. When Devon answers in the affirmative, Ellie presses him on the details: when did Chuck go? Did he see the Eiffel Tower? Most importantly, when did they start keeping secrets from each other? Clearly, Devon hasn’t developed his secret agent poker face yet as Ellie reads that he’s not telling her something. Devon inartfully avoids further questioning, and runs out the door. Back at the Buy More, Jeff and Lester are getting their stalker on, much to the chagrin of Hannah. When Chuck tries to save her, Casey comes by with another rousing, “Yogurt Time!” Nerd Herd Employee Lesson #1? Never work hungry. Chuck asks Morgan to watch Jeff and Lester around Hannah. Taking up his new responsibility with gusto, Morgan calls the guys into his office (nee janitor closet). Morgan informs them that he actually has a crush on Hannah and, as Ass. Man., he gets the first chance. Always seeking an opportunity to barter, Jeff will agree if he gets to sleep at Morgan and Chuck’s place two nights a week (God I hope we see these sure to be awkward sleepovers!), and Lester will agree if next time there’s a job opening, he gets to choose the hiree: preferably a woman of color; more preferably, Padma Lakshmi. Morgan agrees to their demands and orders them to do what they do best — stalk Hannah to find our her likes and dislikes.
At Castle, Casey is reviewing the asset’s profile: college dropout, comic book and video game nerd, no friends. Chuck feels bad for the guy, until Casey reveals he was looking at Chuck’s file. Chuck asks Sarah about what she thought of him the first time they met. Sarah explains she thought Chuck and her could connect. Chuck responds that that day felt like the luckiest day of his life. She goes further, explaining she felt Chuck was sweet and innocent, and because she liked him so much, making him an asset would be that much harder. As the magnetism between the two begins to fire up again, Casey informs them it is time for the mission. They know Manoosh is a regular at the Two and a Half Amigos Restaurant and Cantina. When Manoosh arrives at the restaurant’s bar, he sees someone reading Y: The Last Man, only “the greatest literary achievement of our time” according to the man reading the comic: Chuck. Chuck apologizes for interfering with Hannah helping Manoosh at the Buy More — they were running a contest to see which employee could rack up the most sales. Of course, that’s the only way a hot chick would help him, Manoosh laments. “It doesn’t take a 160 IQ to figure that one out,” retorts Casey in the surveillance van. Manoosh orders his “regular”: the Nacho Sampler. Seems they are all sold out (Casey stole all the guacamole). The last order has just been sent out to Chuck. Trying to make up for his…er…”blocking” of Hannah, Chuck gives Manoosh the nachos. The “two geeks in a pod” bond over the nachos and share their mutual stories of dropping out of college, loneliness and not being appreciated for their intellect. But Manoosh has a plan to realize his potential. Now that he trusts Chuck, Manoosh can tell him he’s working on something weapons related. Manoosh then receives a phone call, on a Ring phone! Casey triangulates the call and realizes that Ring operatives are only three miles away and will be there soon. No more time for Chuck’s amateur skills here; it’s time to send in the big guns. Enter Sarah in a midriff bearing “Frak Off” t-shirt, looking absolutely smoking. She sidles up next to Manoosh and after whispering some sweet geek nothings into is ear, kisses him as a distraction (much to Chuck’s horror), and plunges a tranquilizer dart into his neck. She and Chuck grab Manoosh and his briefcase and escape in the van.
Manoosh wakes up to the feeling of a soft woman’s foot on his face. Sarah has taken him back to her room, which is actually a disguised Castle holding cell. See, secrets turn her on, and before she rocked his world last night, he was telling her about a big one. Manoosh flips himself on top of Sarah and asks if they can “do it” again because he doesn;t remember it from the night before (of course). A hand with a gun pushes through a secret panel and pops Manoosh full of more tranquilizer. Don’t worry Chuck, it’s just a “Twilight Tranquilizer,” enough to make him not remember anything, but not enough to harm him. Even still, Casey should take it easy, Chuck warns. Manooshwakes up and calls Chuck to tell him about the awesome night he had. Chuck is actually just on the other side of the mirror. Manoosh asks Chuck if he happened to pick up Manoosh’s briefcase,a s all of his important work was in it. Chuck tells him he did, and that he’ll meet Manoosh in a half hour at the Buy More to give it back to him. After “Trankenstein” shoots Manoosh with another dart, the team opens the briefcase to find a tall, red prism. Chuck tries to flash its meaning, but nothing happens. Chuck will have to give Manoosh back the case (without the prism), and hope Manoosh will lead the team to something more significant.
Back at the Buy More, Devon finds Chuck to tell him he can’t lie anymore to Ellie about Chuck’s secret spy life. Chuck warns him that telling Ellie would only put the two of them in danger, and likely end up with them in witness protection. When Ellie enters, Devon ducks behind a display rack. Ellie asks Chuck when did they start keeping secrets from each other. Chuck is sorry; he was on an install in Paris and didn’t want anyone to get jealous. In fact, the customer liked Chuck’s work so much he offered Chuck a week’s free stay at his Parisian flat, and to make it up to Ellie, Chuck is going to give that week to her and Devon so they can have a proper honeymoon. Casey and Sarah have been watching the whole exchange while waiting for Manoosh. “See, he’s a good liar. You taught him well, Walker,” Casey notes. Unfortunately, this is exactly what Sarah feared.
Manoosh comes into the Buy More to meet Chuck, but there would be no time for yogurt. Manoosh realized his technology would be best sold on the open market. He leaves, but is met behind the Buy More by a mass of Ring operatives. With Chuck and Sarah following Manoosh on Castle’s surveillance cameras, Casey finally finds a button on the prism. He pushes it, and it erupts a mass of foam. Is it anthrax? Agent Orange? Nope. Shaving cream. At that moment, Manoosh puts on a pair of sunglasses and flashes kung fu abilities. Manoosh has reverse engineered the Intersect 2.0! He quickly dispatches the Ring men, drops his Ring telephone and takes off in one of their SUV’s. Sarah discovers Manoosh has recently booked a flight to Dubai, much to Casey’s delight. It’s time for the annual Weap-Con in Dubai, a cavalcade of the newest and deadliest weapons available on the market. Casey attends every year as a nice, relaxing vacation. Better yet, this year he can write it off his taxes as a business expense!
Having been informed by Jeff and Lester that Hannah is into foreign film and classical music, Morgan has decorated his “office” in French film posters, and himself with a smoking jacket and ascot. Hannah enters to the melodic strings of Swan Lake, coincidentally Hannah’s favorite piece. She and Morgan have so much in common! Seeing the French posters, she wonders if Morgan had ever been to Paris, like Chuck. Hearing that his best bud went to Paris without telling him, Morgan is upset. He climbs over his desk (there’s no room around it in his “office”) to find and ask Chuck about his recent Gallic adventure (didn’t Morgan wonder how Chuck met/knew Hannah in the first place?). Realizing Morgan had no idea about Chuck’s trip, Hannah wonders why there are so many secrets at the Buy More. Like, what the heck is going on with the yogurt store? Morgan informs her that Chuck’s ex works there and he’s having trouble letting go. Morgan doesn’t have time to worry about that though. He needs to know where else Chuck has gone without him.
Cut to Dubai and Weap-Con. Sorry, Casey, but there is no time for shopping, not even for a Japanese laser pen. The team quickly finds Manoosh — he’s gotten onstage to make a presentation. He, the puny Manoosh, is the most dangerous weapon in the world! To counter the laughs raining down upon him from a host of the world’s military men, he asks a couple hulking French soldiers to attack him. With his sunglasses on, Manoosh swiftly kicks French soldier ass (insert condescending French military joke here), starts the bidding at $50 million, and moves backstage to partake in some nachos. The team moves to grab Manoosh, but Chuck tells Sarah and Casey that Manoosh is his asset, so he will take care of it. Chuck approaches Manoosh and tells him he is a CIA agent and there for Manoosh’s protection. Manoosh is incredulous; Chuck’s whole friendship was fake? Well, he doesn’t need any friends. Casey and Sarah move in to grab Manoosh, but Ring operatives capture them all. The team is left handcuffed backstage; presumably, The Ring will take care of them later. Casey tells Chuck that he has one of the laser pens in his pocket (“Hey, I thought there was no shopping!” Chuck scolds Casey). Chuck needs to use his mouth to get the pen. Despite his reluctance to have his mouth anywhere near Casey (“Don’t be shy, Chuck.”), Chuck eventually secures the laser pen, and releases Casey and Sarah.
They catch up to the Ring and Manoosh. Figuring The Ring won’t kill him if they don’t have the sunglasses, Manoosh crushes them. Casey and Sarah move in, guns drawn (did you notice Casey was “The Man with the Golden Gun“? Nice Bond shout-out). A Mexican standoff ensues, however Chuck has the laser pen pointed right at the head Ring baddie. The baddie doesn’t think Chuck will kill him though; he can see it in Chuck’s eyes. Chuck agrees, but he’s willing to laser off the guy’s ear lobe! When Chuck pushes the button, no laser fires. Rather, an Exacto knife pops out! Chuck sees some throwing stars though, and flashes some mad ninja skills. He throws the pen knife into the baddie’s hand, and Sarah and Casey jump into action. When Sarah gets cornered and a Ring henchman is about to shoot her, Chuck spies the plate of nachos, flashes discus and aerodynamics abilities, and saves Sarah with a well-thrown plate. When Chuck tracks him down, Manoosh pleads with Chuck to let him go. Chuck does, to Casey’s disappointment, “I guess Bartowski doesn’t have the stones.” When Manoosh runs for the door though, Chuck thinks better of the situation, grabs a high-powered tranquilizer gun, does his best Tranqenstein impression, and takes Manoosh down. “I stand corrected,” Casey notes, impressed.
The team returns to Castle with Manoosh in tow. Sarah tells Chuck that Manoosh has to go underground for his protection. Chuck would like Sarah to tell Manoosh this, but Chuck will do it: Manoosh is his asset, after all. When Chuck informs him of his need to hide, Manoosh recoils, “I thought you were my friend!’ “I’m not. I’m a spy,” Chuck states with some confidence, but also a bit of resignation. Sarah, looking on from afar, seems sadly resigned to this too. Casey tries to liven the mood though by informing Chuck there’s only one way to deal with burning an asset: Johnnie Walker Black. Chuck returns to the Buy More floor to only have his day made worse. On her way out of the store, Hannah tells Chuck she knows about his ex working at the Orange Orange. Morgan them quizzes Chuck on his whereabouts, and wonders if there is anything Chuck wants to tell him. Nope, but is there anything Morgan wants to ask Chuck? Nope. The best friends depart leaving something big, obviously, left unsaid. Jeff and Lester find Morgan and wonder how it went with Hannah. “Did you take her to Pound Town?” Jeff asks. Negative, but Morgan wants the two to gather more information. Not on Hannah, he informs them, but on Chuck.
At home, Ellie receives the tickets to Paris in the mail. Devon goes apoplectic though. They can’t take the tickets because there are too many strings attached. Ellie vowed to honor and obey her husband, so Devon is putting his foot down (although I’m sure Ellie had the “obey” taken out of the vows. God knows my wife did!). Before Ellie can muster a counter-argument, Devon grabs the tickets and rushes out of the apartment. When Ellie follows him to the door, she sees Morgan. She asks him if she thinks there is something secret going on between Devon and Chuck. Like a “web of conspiracy and deception?” Morgan asks. Absolutely. The two are left to wonder what is going on with the men in their lives.
Back at his own apartment, Chuck pours himself a glass of Johnnie Walker. He hesitates, sips it, and realizes that he likes it, a lot. Watching him from Castle, Casey remarks to Sarah that “Our boy’s all grown up. Did you ever think he’d be able to burn an asset?” “No,” Sarah replies. “He’s turning into a spy. That’s a good thing,” says Casey. Sarah reflects for a moment. “Is it?” Sarah flashes back to the first time she entered the Buy More and saw Chuck. Would she able to extract information from Chuck and develop him as an asset? “Piece of cake.”
I thought this was a really great episode. First off, there was some great character development. By juxtaposing the flashback scene of Sarah and Chuck meeting for the first time (and seeing from Sarah’s perspective, how Chuck was just another asset at the beginning), with Sarah’s viewing of Chuck burning Manoosh, we can see how far these two have moved in two and a half seasons. Chuck would never have burned an asset in the beginning, and Sarah would never have thought twice about it. Now, Chuck is more confident in himself as a spy and is willing to do what spies need to do. Conversely, Sarah, who never had a solid family relationship growing up (her dad was a con man, remember, who moved them around a lot), has come to value the family and friendship Chuck has. I’ve spoken before about how getting the romantic leads together is not a bad thing, especially when they are kept apart with no real obstacle to overcome. That isn’t what is happening here. Yes, Shaw and Hannah have been introduced (and it appears Chuck and Hannah will kiss next week), but the real obstacle here is how Chuck and Sarah’s individual developments are moving them past each other like the two proverbial ships in the night. In addition to Chuck’s development as a spy though, he realizes that this development is coming at the cost of his “normal” life. Ellie and Morgan are suspicious of him. Devon is freaked out. His work is suffering. He’s missing opportunities with both Sarah and Hannah. Is Chuck willing to sacrifice all this to be a ral spy?
This question actually leads me to something else I loved in this episode, and the series this season. The direction has been absolutely wonderful. Not only are the comic moments handled quite deftly (see: Chuck losing his balance while handcuffed to the chair and banging into stuff), but the subtle character stuff has been pretty brilliant. For example, look again at the scene where Chuck drinks the Johnnie Walker.
The hesitation says it all. Chuck is reflecting on what burning an asset means for his development as a spy, and the ramifications it will have on his real life. Can he go through with it? Can he take the drink? He does, and realizes he enjoys it. He enjoys the spy life. But like any alcohol, there is the risk of getting drunk. This is great direction, to have the pause; take the sip; recognize how good it tastes. Just awesome. I foresee Chuck having to struggle with this dichotomy more: how great it feels to be a spy, but what it can mean for his emotional health.
Anyway, that’s what I’ve got for “Chuck vs. Nacho Sampler.” Please leave any comments, questions or thoughts below. Please be sure to check back here at TVOvermind for all of your TV needs. See you next week for the last Chuck before the Olympics break, “Chuck vs. the Mask.” Maybe Jim Carreywill make a cameo. Who knows? As always, thanks for reading. I’m off to listen to Swan Lake.