Starting with my favorite thing about this episode: Emerson! Through meeting Young Emerson, I learn he's been a spy since babyhood and grew up super-close with his P.I. mother. The appearance of Calista Cod is all-around fantastic, as she turns out to be investigating Emerson himself after she came across a rejection letter for Lil' Gumshoe. I loved the way Emerson breaks out this sad puppy-dog face around his mama, and the scene with the two of them simultaneously interrogating their clients is outstanding. And in the end, Mama Cod gives Emerson some wise advice: If he wants to bring his daughter home, he should stop talking about what a cool kid he was and start focusing on what a great dad he'll be.
While all of that is going on, the case leads the team to My Best Friend Inc., a rent-a-friend company where the murder victim was working as a "frescort." Suspicion initially falls on Randy Mann (guest star David Arquette), considering he likes taxidermy and meat pies and obviously needs some friends. He and Ned start to form a bond, since Ned gets the whole loneliness thing, but when Randy gives Ned a taxidermied golden retriever with a guitar, well, all bets are off. Another suspect, Barb, was dating Joe, and she starts to look guilty after she shoves Chuck and Olive in a locker, but she turns up dead in a hug machine. Finally, the team hits on its culprit: Buddy Amicus (ha), the nerdy founder of My Best Friend Inc. who invented the lie that he was a former star quarterback just trying to pass on his abundant social skills to others. This is all revealed in a particularly quirky sequence involving Spartan costumes and jock straps.
Oh, Ned is so, so lonely. I loved his reactions to the hug machine — first horror, then a resigned, schmoopy-happy face as the arms close around him.
It's nice that he recognizes that this loneliness is something he can work on, though. Yes, Chuck can know all his secrets, but that's not an excuse to avoid dealing with the regular world.
Chuck and Olive trapped in a locker together is one of my favorite scenes of the season. Obviously their issues were big enough that all that water wasn't going to stay under the bridge.
The "Our universe is forever expanding" "Like your neediness" exchange was harsh, and Chuck's "I feel like a sachet in the panty drawer of a shut-in who was shut in her closet by her cats so they wouldn't have to smell the scent of freesia" was just . . . wow.
Actually, this episode has a few great Chuck and Olive moments, including the one where they imitate different emotions to get hired at My Best Friend. "Consternation!"
"I want to duvet you right this second" is my new favorite expression. But I am surprised that a buck-naked Chuck is a comfort to Ned, considering the whole no-touching thing.