1/12/13

Leverage: The Long Con Before Saying Goodbye


"To say goodbye is to die a little."
- Philip Marlowe (The Long Goodbye, 1953)

In season finale of the fourth season of Leverage, we were left with the promise that more laws would be broken in the course of justice in the fifth, and final, run of the series and The (Very) Big Bird Job has the team squiring off against a crooked airline executive whose Achilles' heel is technical masterpiece from a previous era – Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose. The Spruce Goose is one of the largest airplanes ever build, flown only once on November 2, 1942, and Nate Ford and his crew have to find a way to get that machine back in the air in order to take their mark down. Not one of the cleverest (or believable?) episodes, but therefore not any less enjoyable. 

They walk the mean streets of Spade and Marlowe

The Blue Line Job has a son putting the life of his father, an "enforcer" of a minor league hockey team, in the hands of the Leverage team and their opponent is the hockey team's owner – who turned the game into street fight on the ice and even paid players from rival teams to go after his enforcer. But there's one problem. Craig Marko, the enforcer, is literary beaten up to the point that the next bump he takes to the head might kill him, and if that one doesn’t finish him, the one after that may do the job. Enter Elliot Spencer, "The Hitter," who becomes one of the players to prevent this from happening until they can put the team's owner out of the game and the ending shows Nate being very in his role of evil, but just, avenger (c.f. the ending of The Cross My Heart Job). He's like a mask-less and cape-less crusader, but he did have (briefly) a Bat Cave (of sorts) in The Last Dam Job!

In The First Contact Job, a low-grade, but loaded, scientist uses his personal wealth to attract truly talented scientists, pinch their ideas, and claiming them as his own – burying his victims in legal papers in the process. Well, he finally gets the opportunity to make the greatest scientific discovery in history, all on his own, establishing contact with an intelligent alien life form. But remember the rules of the con: when something is too good to be true, it usually is. The French Connection Job takes place at a culinary art school, run by a man who taught Eliot that a knife can do more than just stab people, but the restaurateur has turned the place in the base of operations for an unusual smuggling ring. This premise is also used to build up the characters of Eliot and Parker.

The Gimme a K Street Job has Nate and his Merry Men staring down one of their toughest opponents: politicians! A cheerleader gets seriously injured due to corporate negligence, because cheerleading isn't considered a legitimate sport and therefore doesn't have to comply with safety regulations, and they have to overthrow the unscrupulous owner of the cheerleading squad as well as getting a bill passed through Congress. But as Sophie remarked, after spending a day peddling between Congressmen, "I don't know how anything gets done around here. You have to be a grifter to run government."

FBI uniforms: One Size Fits All (from a first season episode)
Their next con harks back to The Van Gogh Job, in which two stories, from past and present, are told that tie-in, character or plot-wise, towards the end – and the characters from the past are played by the members of the Leverage crew. And there's a clue in there, if you're alert enough, in The D.B. Cooper Job. FBI Agent McSweeten, who still believes Parker and Hardison's cover stories are legit, asks them to take a look at the unsolved 1971 plane hijacking by the legendary D.B. Cooper – who disappeared without a trace after bailing from the plane. McSweeten's dying father was put in charge of the case and never stopped looking for Cooper. I have only one thing to say about this episode: Continuity! (Boom)

The Broken Wing Job is a Parker, "The Thief," of the group, orientated episode, in which the high-flyer is grounded with a broken leg, and bored out of her mind, begins to watch the surveillance cameras of their restaurant, doubling as their hideout, when she notices two shady guys plotting at a table. One of them carrying a gun. Parker has to work as an armchair detective to figure out who they are, what they are planning and how to stop them. We also learn a little bit more of the ongoing storyline, which began in The (Very) Big Bird Job, when the viewer learned that Nate and Hardison are sharing a secret.

The Rundown Job and The Frame Up Job share the same set-up as The Girls' Night Out Job and The Boys' Night Out Job, from the previous season, in which the teams split and have separate jobs to take care off. Eliot, Parker and Hardison are wrapping up business in Washington, when Eliot receives a phone call from the past, asking him to do a hit on someone. Elliot turns down the offer, but he knows if he doesn't take the job, someone else will and attempt to try to stop an assassination – and hit upon on a conspiracy. The Frame Up Job has Nate Ford and Sophie Devereaux, officially an item by this time, playing the bantering, mystery solving couple that were all the rage back in the 1940s and they do it with the same joie de vivre as the Troys and the Browns. Heck. Even the setting and multi-layered plot were very reminiscent of the detective stories usually discussed on this blog. 

James Sterling: "The Antagonist"

Sophie tries to ditch Nate one day with a ticket to a Noir Mystery Movie fest, but traces her steps back to the estate of a recently deceased art collector, where the first painting of a modern master, never before put on display, will be unveiled to the public for the very first time – and Sophie has a personal connection to the painting. Of course, when the vault door swings open, there’s nothing in there to be seen, and as the only infamous (ex) art thief/grifter on the premise, Sophie has a lot to explain when Sterling shows up. The plot twists and turns from an art theft to a murder investigation to forgery, but the best part of the story was seeing Nate and Sophie as detectives/criminals (e.g. John Kendrick Bangs' Raffles Holmes and Lawrence Block's Bernie Rhodenbarr), and how the characters played off each other, because the plot was predictable. I recognized most of the plot devices and anticipated nearly every twist. A good try and tremendous fun to watch, but for the seasoned mystery fan, it's a walk in the park. The Rashomon Job, from the third season, was perhaps the best plotted episode from the series, in which five separate stories of the same event dovetail into one with the fifth telling and much more reminiscent of Agatha Christie than The Ten Lil' Grifters Job.

In The White Rabbit Job, they receive an unusual request that consists of not taking down a company owner, hell-bent on destroying the company his grandfather build up and the town it supports, but to safe and restore him to his old self again. They decide to give the rarely attempted "White Rabbit" con a go, in which they drug the mark and put him through a series of dream sequences that Hardison conjures up from his computer, but this also poses a plethora of moral objections. Interesting premise, descent episode. The Toy Job opens with a whistleblower warning the team that a company wants to bring a dangerous toy on the market, ready to be released before Christmas, and they rummage around for a rejected/failed toy to re-brand and create a craze to overshadow their mark’s toy. But why pick a doll that looks like Chucky's deformed cousin, who appeared to have been brought into this world with the assistance of a rusty coat hanger?

I think this a good point to mention that I have not yet seen The Low Low Price Job and The Corkscrew Job, and can't remember much of The Real Fake Car Job, which is why they are missing from this overview.

Finally, The Long Goodbye Job has the team making an attempt at obtaining a secret file, known as the Black Book, consisting of all the dodgy transactions made during economical collapse of 2007-08 and the names of people who created the crisis, and use it as a hit list. But when the episode opens, we learn that something has gone horribly wrong and Nate has to relate story of how his team perished during a pursuit for those secret files. I can't tell no more without spoiling anything, but the second half of the episode was almost too light to follow up the high-strung drama of the first part. But not a bad way to bow out. Not bad at all. And note the similarities between the main set-up of The Long Goodbye Job and The Con is Off, the final one for their BBC counterpart Hustle.  

Yes. I had not forgotten about me compulsively obsessing over a Hustle/Leverage crossover that's now never going to happen. Why would anyone cancel a series that can balance between dark/gritty and light/comical and oozes viewer entertainment? Oh well, I can always re-watch Hustle

The next post will be a proper review of a classic whodunit. 

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