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'Chuck' fan recap: Party like it's 1998

Season 2 | Episode 4 | “Chuck Versus the Cougars” | Aired Oct 20, 2008

I’m so excited that we’re finally here. This episode has everything: Sarah backstory, high school flashbacks, the music of both Hanson and the Backstreet Boys, Cory Matthews, and one of the biggest reality stars of the early 2000s. But before we get to all of that great stuff, first let’s recap the Buy More shenanigans.

Big Mike leaves Lester in charge while he goes on a fishing trip. This causes Lester to act on two terrible ideas.

  1. Lester institutes a “friendly negotiation sales strategy,” in which customers choose their own prices. This obviously does not work out in Lester’s favor. The store ends up several thousand dollars in the hole. They need to find a way to make that money back—fast.
  2. Chuck jokingly suggests hosting a kegger for mall employees. The Buy Morons embrace this idea, and soon there is a raging party underway in the Buy More. Lester quickly becomes the panicked kid trying to clean up the party that got out of control. (We’ve all been there.)

Party at the Buy More

In the chaos, Norman, Big Mike’s marlin, gets broken. That is the last straw, and Lester shuts the party down. The employees spend the whole night cleaning up, finishing just in time for Big Mike’s return. As soon as Big Mike is back, Lester quits; the pressure of the job is too much. It was fun while it lasted.

Now for this week’s Sarah-focused storyline! We open on 1998 San Diego, as high school Sarah (braces and all!) drives home from school, only to find her dad being arrested. She runs to the woods and digs up a box full of “In case of emergency” money her dad left for her.

Back in the present day, Sarah spots a woman (Nicole Richie) following her through the Buy More. She drops Chuck off at Castle to hide out. The woman shows up at Orange Orange and says she knows Sarah—they went to high school together!

She introduces herself to Jenny Burton (Sarah’s high school identity) as Heather Chandler. She married their other classmate, Mark Ratner (Ben Savage). James Buchanan High, Class of ’98—Go Cougars!

Ben Savage and Nicole Richie guest star on Chuck.

Chuck catches this exchange over the surveillance system and takes this rare opportunity to learn more about Sarah’s life. He comes out and introduces himself as Jenny’s boyfriend. Mark tells them about the class reunion this weekend, and Chuck flashes on Mark’s voice. Chuck invites Mark and Heather to dinner. He wants to learn all about his Jenny.

Sarah is less eager to reminisce. She’s worried that her cover (or lack thereof) has been compromised. But General Beckman tells her it’s perfect. Mark is a weapons engineer, and the technology for his super bomber has been leaked. They need to recover the plans. At dinner, Mark is sweating and checking his watch. He excuses himself and is confronted by a man in the bathroom with a gun, demanding the plans for the super bomber.

Out at the table, Chuck is fishing for information on “Jenny.” Heather is being a mean girl, and touches a nerve when she asks if Sarah visits her dad much. To end the conversation, Sarah spills a glass of wine on Chuck and sends him to the bathroom. And that’s when he interrupts Mark and his friends from the Russian mob.

Mark is shoved into a stall and Casey comes to the rescue, taking out the mobsters. Casey rushes out of the bathroom to pull the car around, and when Mark exits his stall, he assumes that Chuck saved him.

During his interrogation at Castle, Mark tells Casey he only wants to deal with Special Agent Carmichael; he saved Mark’s life. Casey tells Mark that Charles “Mad Dog” Carmichael is a maniac (and Chuck tries to play along); Mark needs to tell them what he knows. When his buyer texts, they make plans to meet at the reunion.


Sarah is taking out some high school resentments on her punching bag when Chuck stops by with a new dress for to the reunion. When they arrive at the school, Chuck spots a photo of high school Sarah, a lot of ’90s boy bands are played, and I am all about it. They also meet the class jerk, Dick Duffy. He uses perhaps the worst pickup line ever uttered before Chuck steps in. But when he does, he flashes on Dick’s tattoo. He has a connection to the Russian mob; Dick must be who Mark is meeting.

Jenny Burton and Sarah Walker

Sarah goes outside to meet with Dick instead, and she kicks him in the face after he grabs her ass: “Just working out some childhood issues.” Instead of weapon plans, his trunk is filled with knockoff watches, pirated DVDs, and dime bags. He’s not their guy.

Their guy is Heather. Some Russians arrive at the reunion and Heather tells them Mark spilled everything to the Feds. She orders them to kill Mark and Chuck. Luckily, Chuck sees the Russians and flashes. He is able to point them out to Casey, while Sarah goes after Heather for a long-overdue ass-kicking. Sarah and Heather duke it out in the locker room, and Sarah finally knocks out Heather.

Mark is stuffed into a locker by the Russians before Casey comes to the rescue, and “Mad Dog” Carmichael gets the credit for saving Mark’s life again. In the gym, Jenny Burton is announced as Queen of the Reunion, and Sarah walks in soaking wet, barefoot, and bleeding to claim her crown.

Queen of the Reunion, Jenny Burton

Later, Chuck wonders how Jenny Burton became Sarah Walker, and Sarah thinks back to the day her dad was arrested. Director Graham found Sarah in the woods. Her father’s scams put them both in a lot of danger. (Jenny Burton was not her first identity.) Graham says the CIA could save her life, and he makes her Sarah Walker.

Director Graham recruits Sarah

Awesome ’90s music featured during this episode:

“Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba

“Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” by the Backstreet Boys

“MMMBop” by Hanson

“I Don’t Want to Wait” by Paula Cole

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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