June 26, 2011

Episode Review: LEVERAGE, "The Long Way Down Job"

After a fun, but sub-par Season 3, Leverage came back with a vengeance with an episode that was tailor made for Grifters, but was still accessible for new viewers. Like always, the Crew had to pull a job on some big, bad business, but it was the interactions between the characters that made "The Long Way Down Job" special.

After the San Lorenzo job, the Leverage Crew was supposed to have two weeks of down time, but Nate had other ideas after hearing the story of Karen Scott whose husband, Alan, was lost on a mountain. She let Ford know that her husband's financial investment company would seize and foreclose on homes by the hundreds, and something wasn't adding up, so she hired them to get to the bottom of what was going on at her husband's firm and to help her get some closure.

The job took everyone to Alaska, where a group of rich business people were congregating to climb a mountain, with hopes of running a game on this week's bad guy: John Drexel. The plan included Sophie sticking to Drexel while Eliot and Parker hiked up the mountain to find Alan's body which had proof of Drexel's misdeeds. Nate and Hardison would run things from base camp, but they got an expected visitor in Karen. After she took off after Eliot and Parker to find Alan, Nate headed up the mountain, but the effects of altitude sickness mixed with alcohol withdrawal was too much for him to handle, and he collapsed once he found Karen's unconscious body. Luckily, she came to and saved both of them.

Back at base camp, Sophie realized that Drexel wasn't at the mountain for fun, but he was there to auction off his business to foreign buyers which would hide the mortgage fraud that his company was involved in. Sophie and Hardison worked to stall the sale, while Eliot and Parker continued up the mountain to find the evidence. The latter found the signal that Alan's body was producing, but they couldn't find the body until the ground gave way, and they ended up in the under ground cave where he died.

At first, Eliot and Parker were dedicated to retrieving Alan's diary which could prove what Drexel was up to, but Parker insisted that they take the body back with them. Everything was going fine until their rope broke, which meant they wouldn't have enough to save themselves and to hoist up Alan. In the end, they made the call that only they could and saved themselves, the diary, and Alan's phone.

Nate and Sophie told Drexel what they knew what he was up to, and that they had Alan's diary as leverage. Unfortunately, he called their bluff and had his Russian hired gun ambush Eliot and Parker to take back the evidence. While the Russian had Parker captive, she slipped Alan's phone into his pocket, and when he was close enough to the Internet signal, a final video message from Alan started playing. In it he filled in the rest of the blanks: Drexel had cut his line and was responsible for his death. The message was also the final goodbye from Alan to Karen, and the Crew realized why they do what they do.

As you can see, there was A LOT going on in "Long Way Down", and it was almost too much to chronicle. The Job of the Week was your typical Leverage storyline because it involved another evil business pushing around the little guy with the use of complicated legal means and unethical behavior, so I wasn't too invested in this week's Big Bad. We all knew that Drexel was going down thanks to some last minute Hail Mary move by the Crew. We've seen it all before.

What did work very well was all of the emotional beats shared between the characters. Whether it was Nate and Sophie having to deal with their one night in San Lorenzo, Parker and Hardison figuring out their relationship, or Eliot and Parker having their amazing bonding moments, it all worked and made "Long Way Down" a great way to start the season. Even Alan's final message to Karen was beautifully shot and acted, and it was the cherry on top of a great episode.

All that being said, I do have to admit that "Long Way Down" was a bit uneven. The start of the episode had nothing but jokes and one-liners, the middle was all tension and intrigue, and the final third pulled on the heartstrings. Individually, each act worked well, but they didn't add up to a well balanced final product. Don't get me wrong, tonight's episode was great, but a better blending of the humor, drama, and emotion would have been appreciated.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • Hardison's rant about why black people don't climb things and the dumb things rich people do was priceless.
  • Eliot and Hardison gave us not one, but two, of the best man hugs ever filmed.
  • Parker, Eliot, and Hardison having to remind Nate about "The Snow Job" was pretty funny.
  • I can watch Hardison dangling from ropes all day long.
  • Eliot smacking Parker on the bottom was one of this show's greatest moments.
  • I'm a sucker for Eliot's, "it's a very distinctive ____" bit.
  • Parker flashing the light in Eliot's face was all sorts of awesome.
  • Speaking of Parker and Eliot, I love their pairing because of the big brother/little sister vibe that they have going. Their moments in the cave were wonderfully bittersweet.
  • Whenever Parker cries, it gets me every single time. I just want to give her a hug.
  • Or I could just let Hardison hug her for me. Another killer moment.
  • Haridson: "I think one of my nipples fell off..." Eliot: "Don't tell me stuff like that!"
  • "It's a dangerous mountain. There could be some polar bears or ill-tempered Eskimos."
  • "At least Eliot gave me a hug."
  • Nate: "No, you're emotionally involved. It leads to bad decisions." Hardison: "I'm sorry, did you just say that? With a straight face?"
  • "I want to do the right thing!"
"The Long Way Down Job" had the right amounts of funny, action, drama, twists and turns, and while I would've liked all of those elements to have been mixed more effectively, it was a triumphant return for Leverage. Not only was it a good way to welcome back faithful viewers, but it was easy enough for newbies to follow, and it set up what should be an amazing season long arc as they try to figure out whose out for revenge. It's good to have the hitter, grifter, hacker, thief, and mastermind back.


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