The Wife:

Further utilizing the backstory established in “Chuck vs. the Cougar,” this weeks’ episode turned our nerdy spy show into a con game when Sarah’s dad, played by Gary Cole, comes to town to visit his daughter while working a big money con of a Sheik. Via flashback, we’re introduced to the kind of cons the Burton family used to pull on their neighbors and strangers when we see little Jenny play dead and her dad bark the crowd with a sob story about not having health insurance and needing to take his girl to the hospital. In the car, safely miles down the street, little Jenny pops her head up over the back seat as her daddy peels of his mustache and asks, “How much did we make?” Man, I can only hope that if Sawyer ever makes it off the island, he and little Clementine can one day pull adorable father-daughter cons like that. So. Freaking. Cute.

Sarah tells Chuck that she’s taking a “personal” day, which he automatically assumes means that there’s a mission he is intentionally not being included on. He tails her to the restaurant where he sees her having dinner with a man he deems much too old for her. He flashes on Gary Cole’s wrist scar and finds out that he’s a convicted felon just as Sarah hears her GPS beep, alerting her that Chuck is nearby. When she confronts him about his presence in the restaurant, he tries to warn her that she’s dating a very bad man, whom she introduces to Chuck as her father. In Sarah’s room, her father asks her about her boyfriend Chuck, her job and her lavish apartment. He assumes that because those things don’t make sense with one another (a minimum wage job and a lush pad, plus a dude who seems like he’s not in her league) she’s followed his footsteps and plays the con game, too. He tells her that he’s in town working a big con: taking $1 million from a Sheik. Immediately, Sarah heads off to work and reports her father to the general, who tells Sarah that she must in turn con her father in order to gain access to the Sheik’s bank accounts. The Feds will let Burton’s game slide if they can use him to catch a bigger fish.

Meanwhile, in Buymoria, Anna has finally found her way back into the plot. She encourages Morgan to move in to a fancy apartment with her because she feels their relationship has progressed to that stage. That, and she’s tired of hooking up in the Home Entertainment Room of the Buy More. Morgan asks Captain Awesome for relationship advice and Awesome happily agrees to lend Morgan $2500 to put a down payment on the apartment so that Morgan can grow up a little bit and make his lady happy. (Of course, Awesome’s charitable bequest must be paid back biweekly with 12% interest. “Welcome to adulthood.”) But then Lester and Jeff alert Morgan to the fact that a vintage 1981 DeLorean that barely runs and doesn’t go more than 22 mph has pulled up in the audio install bay. Unable to resist such a sweet piece of pop culture, even if one of the doors doesn’t work, Morgan forks over Awesome’s money and becomes the proud owner of a car he will dub DEMORGAN, complete with personalized license plate. (In California, you can actually only put 7 characters on a license plate, which means, Chuck fans from the Golden State, that DMORGAN, DEMORGN, DEMRGAN and DEMRGN are still available if you want them as your own plates.)

Chuck, emergine Doc Brown-style from the Demorgan.

Chuck, emergine Doc Brown-style from the Demorgan.

While lunching with Gary Cole, Chuck and Sarah learn that her father conned the Sheik out of his million by promising to sell him a huge plaza in L.A., a move known in the con community as “pulling a Lichtenstein,” in which one pretends to be an inventor or collector who needs to make a big sale fast because the biggest lie is usually the easiest to believe. After lunch, they are surprised to see that the Sheik has come to LA looking to collect on his purchase. He and his posse demand a meeting with the fictional Mr. Lichtenstein and Gary Cole, thinking fast, ropes his daughter into the con to play the role of Lichtenstein’s assistant. Sarah wears the role like a second skin, promising a meeting with Lichtenstein the next day. When the Sheik starts to believe that Lichtenstein isn’t real, Chuck calls the hotel’s front desk, getting the clerk to call out across the lobby for Lichtenstein, just in time for Chuck himself to enter the con, playing the German-speaking Lichtenstein. Convinced, the Sheik agrees to meet with them the next day.

Sarah tells him that she’ll help with the con only if Chuck “the Schnook” and Casey can help. Gary Cole puts Casey on security because he doesn’t trust his “Cop Face.” The next day, Casey takes over as building security and helps Sarah, Chuck and her father break in to an office by pretending to be exterminators. Once the building is evacuated, they cover the signage with “Lichtenstein Enterprises” signage and take their places in the office. Cop Face sends the Sheik up only when it’s clear, and Sarah is prepared to translate made-up German to Chuck, whose only role is to simply sit there and say nothing that makes any sense. But then the Sheik throws them a curveball: he rightly, smartly, brings his own translator, whom he insists will be the only person speaking directly to Dr. Lichtenstein. Chuck saves the day by insulting the translator’s accent with the little English he knows and insists that, due to this outrage, the deal is off. Chuck’s reluctance to sell only makes the Sheik want the building more and Sarah convinces the Sheik to wire a small deposit into their account so that they can hold the property for him, successfully gaining access to the accounts for her boss and saving her dad from certain death, and they leave to let the Sheik enjoy his new purchase just as the real occupants of the office exit the elevator.

Only Gary Cole is a better con artist than his daughter. He didn’t set up the wire transfer to go into the CIA account and takes off before the rest of the team realize that the money is gone, along with Chuck’s laptop. Sarah feels terrible that helping her dad compromised the mission, and Chuck tells her that she’s not responsible for her father’s sins, something he took many years in therapy to learn after his engineer father left him and Ellie. (I am now about 90% that Chuck’s father was recruited by the CIA to build the Intersect and had to be sequestered because of the information to which he was privy, thus explaining the dwindling contact he had with his family after he left his children.)

Casey is sent to find Gary Cole alone, learning that he checked into a downtown L.A. hotel under the name Guido Merkins. (Thus marking the second vagina wig reference of this TV season.) But then Gary Cole calls his daughter from the back of a limousine, where the Sheik reveals that he has kidnapped Cole and will only return him unharmed if the Sheik’s money is returned unharmed. So Sarah, too, sets off on a mission alone to save her father.

Chuck returns to work at the Buy More, only to be hounded by Morgan, who asks if Chuck can lend him $2500 to pay back Awesome, who demanded that Morgan return the money when he found out that it was used for the childish purchase of a novelty car. Chuck agrees to lend Morgan the $2500, only to find out that there’s an extra million dollars in his bank account. He then borrows the Demorgan in order to follow Sarah and Casey on their “personal” missions.

Give me your account number so I can make sure you get your British Lottery Winnings.

Give me your account number so I can make sure you get your British Lottery Winnings.

In a rooftop standoff, Chuck gets the Sheik to input his account number in order to return the $1 million, hoping that the time it takes to transfer the funds will be enough time to keep Sarah, Burton and him alive. Just as the Sheik’s money transfer finishes, Casey swoops in, pretending to be from the U.S. Treasury department and arrests Chuck and Sarah before the Sheik has time to shoot them. In a last-ditch effort to make the con look real, Sarah shoots her father in the shoulder. Hoping to not get arrested or shot himself, the Sheik steals the Demorgan, unaware that he won’t be going very far at only 22 mph.

Back at the Castle, the General thanks everyone for their attention to the mission and arranges an arrest for Sarah’s father, asking Sarah to keep him in a certain place at a certain time to facilitate the capture. In deference to his help on the case, Casey asks the General if he can testify at Burton’s hearing in order to reduce his prison sentence, a request that she allows. Chuck returns to the Buy More to give Morgan the bad news about the stolen Delorean. Morgan could not be more pleased to hear this, because it means he’ll get Blue Book value for the car after it’s impounded. That money means he can pay back Awesome and still move in with Anna. That is, until Jeff and Lester coax him into the audio install bay where he feasts his eyes on yet another novelty vehicle: the General Lee.

As Sarah prepares to facilitate her father’s arrest, she fixes his wound and Gary Cole tells her that he’s convinced that she and Chuck the Schnook are an actual couple. Happy with the man he thinks his daughter’s chosen for a mate (or a con partner), he tells her that she chose “the right schnook.” She asks her father to go get her some rocky road ice cream as she notices the time for his arrest draws near. He runs into Chuck on his way out of the hotel and expresses similar platitudes to the schnook. As the police cars arrive, Sarah comes out to tell the cops that she doesn’t know where her father went, and he slips away, effectively evading arrest under the Intersect’s nose.

Nothing says I Love You quite like a father-daughter con.

Nothing says 'I Love You' quite like a father-daughter con.

I liked this episode, although it certainly wasn’t as funny as a normal Chuck episode. In fact, it was hardly a normal Chuck episode at all, focusing on the work of grifters instead of the work of spies. Overall, it seemed a little out of place, but it was a nice change of pace and, most importantly, a really good character study for Sarah. That’s one thing I can definitely give Josh Schwartz and his writers major props for this season: they’ve worked really hard to keep growing their characters, never sacrificing them and their actual motivations for the sake of plot contrivances, which is more than I can say for the NBC show that directly follows this one.

The Husband:

Gary Cole has had a long, strange career. Let’s just put this into perspective. 15 years ago, he starred in The Brady Bunch Movie, followed three years later by a very goofy, sleazy supporting role in Office Space.

Now, he stars as a sly grifter this week on Chuck, as a terrifying and abusive policeman husband on Desperate Housewives last season and starred on a bounty hunter show on TNT called Wanted a couple years ago.

In between, he found the time to voice the lead character in Adult Swim’s Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law.

So I say, what the hell? It’s madness, I says!

Added Note: If you watch the episode on, you can see a friend of my sister, Mary Howard, as an extra, dressed in a gray sweater, at one of the Buy More scenes. The timestamp is 19.26.