“This place isn’t real. Her feelings for you aren’t real.”
– Sylvia (a.k.a. Crazy Cougar Lady)

Sylvia is right about the first thing, but she’s wrong about the second. It’s clear by now that Sarah cares about Chuck as more than just an asset. Devon sees it, Ellie sees it, Casey sees it, and on some level, Sarah knows it. But the first thing that Sylvia says is the more interesting one, so we’re going to zero in on it.

If you haven’t already, make sure to read the disclaimer. Since I’m rewatching the episodes in their intended airing order, I’ll be taking a look at S2E15, “Chuck Versus the Beefcake,” next.

Chuck and Sarah’s life in the suburbs is a fantasy. There’s a 4-bedroom house, a sedan, a dog, and a plethora of fake photos showing them getting married, hiking, and going on trips together. All these things add to the living daydream. Chuck and Sarah even dress for their parts: Chuck abandons his Nerd Herd uniform for something more mature, while Sarah dons a pretty housewife dress.

“You’d better be careful, Sarah; one day, you might actually turn into a real girl.”
– Chuck

It’s showtime for Chuck and Sarah the second Chuck enters the house. He suddenly finds himself barbecuing for the neighbours. This is the easy part. They’re fine being fake. After all, they’re on a spy mission, and at least one of their neighbours is a suspected terrorist. Things get complicated the following morning, when in a fit of un-Sarah-like spontaneity, Sarah decides to make breakfast for Chuck. He is surprised but touched by the gesture, and suddenly, their feelings have entered the equation.

Sarah making breakfast for Chuck is real to the extent that Sarah does it because of real feelings, but there’s also an element of artificiality to the scene. Sarah cooks breakfast with CIA cookware on a CIA stove, with ingredients that were presumably purchased by the CIA. Later, she feeds the dog (presumably from a CIA kennel) and gives Chuck a brief (but presumably real) goodbye kiss before he goes to work in his CIA automobile. Now let’s assume for a second that all of that stuff was really Chuck and Sarah’s. Never mind the fact that a television show about Chuck and Sarah living together as a happy, normal couple in the suburbs would be excruciatingly boring, even with the CIA out of the picture, it still seems too perfect. How could Sarah, who has devoted her life to protecting the people of her country, be content being a housewife in the suburbs? The answer is that she couldn’t, at least not for long. So viewers are left with a sense that sense that no matter how sweet it is for Sarah and Chuck to pretend to be a normal, married couple, it’s all going to come crashing down soon.

And, wow, what a crash! Chuck must break his fake wedding vows and use Sylvia’s apparent attraction to him in order to get on the computer of her husband, who has been identified as a Fulcrum agent. He goes over to Sylvia’s house, but after accessing the computer, he ends up with Fulcrum programming in his brain and escapes Sylvia’s house through an upstairs window. Now the whole cul-de-sac knows about Chuck’s supposed infidelity, and in order to maintain their cover, Chuck and Sarah must get a fake divorce. And as if one crash weren’t enough, Chuck finds out that the entire cul-de-sac is inhabited by Fulcrum agents. Chuck, Sarah, and Casey are captured and taken to Fulcrum’s underground Intersect laboratory. Fulcrum tests yet another Intersect on Chuck, and they elect to do the same on Sarah, but Casey is there in the nick of time to stop them. Casey sets off the test prematurely, and Chuck protects Sarah from Intersect’s harmful effects by burying her head in his chest.

On the Buy More side of things, Big Mike is dealing with a fantasy of his own. After his wife divorces him, he decides to play the field again. Jeff, Lester, and Morgan encourage him to lie about his weight and occupation in order to score. It works, but Big Mike feels guilty about hiding the truth from his new girlfriend, Bolonia, so he snaps out of his fantasy and comes clean. Bolonia forgives him; she’s been hiding a secret of her own: she’s Morgan’s mother! See, Morgan, that’s what you get for encouraging a man to go out and get some so soon after his divorce. Despite this apparent speed bump, Big Mike and Bolonia agree to stay together. Things are about to get awkward for Morgan Grimes.

Chuck and Sarah have a more rude awakening from their fantasy. Even though all the enemy agents in the cul-de-sac are either incapacitated or killed by the Intersect test that Casey sabotaged, Fulcrum is gaining in strength. Beckman tells Sarah that “the honeymoon is over.” Sarah shoots Chuck down when he asks if she wants to spend one last night in the suburbs together. She tells him that it was just a cover. It’s harsh but necessary. The beautiful house, the manicured lawn, the charming cul-de-sac – none of it was real. But the devastation of having to yet again put the job above personal feelings is.