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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Chuck: Chuck Vs. Tom Sawyer

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Illustration for article titled Chuck: Chuck Vs. Tom Sawyer

Clearly, Chuck is about nerds. But there's a danger to that as well. When the show tries to prove its "nerds are cool" message, it comes off as disengaged. Take last week's cat fight between Nicole Richie and Sarah (yes, I'm calling her by her character's name, thank you very much)–at the end, Richie yells something about how, of course, she could never have a thing for her husband because he's SUCH A NERD, right? To which Sarah, thinking about Chuck, counters that it's possible. To me that meant: Yes, despite the fact that the guy's such a huge nerd, I, a beautiful woman, see a scenario in which I might fall for him once I get to know him–and only then will I see that it is a nerd I was meant to be with. And even though that moment was instigated by a villain that we'll probably never see again, it still rang true for me as far as the first season is concerned. There were too many moments just like that, where Chuck almost had to prove that he can do things in spite of his nerdiness, not just, you know, as his nerdy self.

But as was evident even from moment one of season two, the show is trending in a much more exciting direction: This is now a show about nerds, for nerds, doing all it can to embrace things nerds find cool. And thus Chuck no longer feels like a defense of the culture, but a celebration of it.

On that note, here we are back in Burbank, with an episode that could have been plucked right out of the dreams of everyone in The King of Kong. Unbeknownst to anyone at the Buy More, Jeff was once one of the greatest Missile Command players in the country, having won a prestigious contest 25 years ago–the spoils of which included $100 in quarters and a year's supply of Slim Jims. But as it turns out, the creator of the game hid real missile command codes at the game's kill screen, so our lovable squad has been tasked with getting Jeff back in the game, so to speak. That, of course, means Chuck must brave an evening shotgunning beers with Jeff on a social level, a wonderful chance for us all to learn a bit more about our favorite drunk. Yes, Jeff's a creep, but a very specific kind who proudly shows his Anna photo montage, set to music, to his drinking buddies. He also wears special drinking pants and likes grape cough syrup and M&Ms;, but not the brown ones. If you didn't feel some pity when Jeff graced the screen before, you will now.

Not much happens outside the Buy More, which is a nice change of pace from the season's first four episodes. This further fuses Chuck's real life with his secret one, which is a dynamic again finding him worse for the wear. Chuck can save the world by pwning Missile Command in Jeff's absence (with some sweet Rush tunes in the background, no less), but he can't shake his sister's nagging to move on with his life, something he can't do now that he's stuck as the Intersect. The show has been sprinkling episodes with moments like tonight's mini-intervention, and every time Chuck brushes the concerns under the rug. But I'm starting to notice the big lumps underneath, and something's sure to crack in the near future. Let's just hope Chuck can call upon the wisdom garnered from four years as a roadie for Mamma Mia (aka Morgan) when the time comes.

In the mean time, I'm really enjoying the ride, and I find myself looking forward to these episodes every week. I know I'm not the only one (thanks for all the great comments, people), but all the news coming out of Nielsen is that Chuck ain't doing so hot. Maybe people tuned out at the pilot; maybe they've only got room for one Monday night NBC show, and they're choosing the much-worse Heroes (more on that later tonight). I'm having a hard time standing for it. So I order each of you to go out and tell three of your friends that the show's really good–like Save Our Bluths, how apropos given Tony Hale's appearance–and hopefully once November sweeps are over we'll be in good shape.

(Before I get to the grade, one complaint about tonight: Chuck has been on a roll with great guest actors, but tonight's Hale storm (nailed it!) was…lacking? I kept waiting for another scene or two from Emmitt the efficiency expert, but none came. So when we find out that he's chosen to stick around as the assistant manager, I felt like no one really cared. Hale's a gifted comic actor; here's hoping he gets a lot more next time.)

Grade: A-

Stray observations:

- Morgan and Lester's jealousy was a treat–it's funny to see these grown men betray their inner socially awkward kids every now and then.

- Speaking of Hale, did anyone else have a weird Buster Bluth flashback upon hearing him say, "Kind words of introduction, Michael"?

- Sarah in a Nerd Herd outfit.

- Nope, that's it. My mind has gone there (see above), and I can't think of anything else.

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