'Chuck': The one where no one proposes

nicole-richie-chuck-320.jpg"Chuck" flipped its usual script a little bit Monday (Oct. 4), with Sarah wanting to have the awkward relationship talk in the midst of the spy stuff. Throw in a couple of well-used returning guest stars -- and the triumphant return of Big Mike -- and "Chuck vs. the Cubic Z" was, in a lot of places, a pretty strong episode.

Except for that sitcommy ending. The title of this recap comes from a "Friends" episode where Rachel thinks Joey was proposing when, in fact, he was just picking a ring up off the floor. Yes, Chuck and Sarah had just been talking about taking things slowly and testing the current limits of their relationship (always closing the bathroom door is a good call), so having Chuck bend down and pick an engagement ring up on the floor just then isn't the best timing.

But. Sarah was standing right there, watching Chuck bend down to pick something up off the floor. She also presumably knows that Chuck is not the kind of guy to listen to a conversation and then blunder ahead anyway. So her freaked-out reaction to the ring -- and his freaked-out reaction to her freaked-out reaction -- doesn't track.

Having them approach their relationship from opposing perspectives is a story that could, and should, provide some realistic tension between them. This, however, feels like too much of an artificial hurdle.

On the good side, though? Having Nicole Richie return as Heather Chandler -- this time as a federal prisoner diverted to the Buy More, just in time to stir the relationship pot even more than it already had been. Richie was an unexpectedly great addition to "Chuck" in her Season 2 appearance, and she was really good again this week, needling Sarah the way only a high-school frenemy can -- "Love your dungeon. Can't wait to catch up" -- and teasing both of them with her knowledge of Frost, aka Chuck's mom. They spent time together in Burma, apparently, and Mary Elizabeth was apparently "always around Volkoff."

Having Stacy Keibler as Greta No. 3 was a bit of a tease -- her confrontation with former WWE colleague Steve Austin was short and not terribly sweet -- but the gleeful/sadistic gleam in Austin's eye as Hugo Panzer went after Chuck again was fun to watch.

As for things topside at the Buy More, well, mixed bag. It's great to have Mark Christopher Lawrence back as Big Mike, especially when he gets to say things like "Hand me the disco stick." But we already knew Morgan was bad under pressure, so seeing him lose control of the video-game launch really didn't give us anything new.

What did you think of this week's "Chuck"? Are you buying Sarah's reaction in the final scene?

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Photo credit: NBC

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