July 31, 2011

Episode Review: LEVERAGE, "The Carnival Job"

Season 4 of Leverage continued its trend of having your typical Job-of-the-Week episode morph into a whole different story, and I continued to love every minute of it.

The start of "The Carnival Job" was just like any other episode of Leverage. This week's client, who was working on some fancy computer chip, was fired from his job for "using work time for personal projects". To add insult to injury, his former boss also stole his invention, and the Crew was hired to steal it back for him.

Early on, it became clear that this was not your average mark. While collecting information on Donnie Connell, the Crew realized that he wasn't an evil person, just someone who was dealing with personal and professional stressors, and he wasn't handling them particularly well. For example, he had recently lost his wife and did not have the time to be a single father to his daughter. While Donnie's story was unfortunate, he did steal the computer chip and was planning on selling it to the Russians, so the Crew still had a job to do.

Sophie had noticed that Donnie was renovating his house as a way to grieve, so some of the Crew posed as high-end contractors while Eliot pretended to be a member of the security company used by the mark. While Sophie, Nate, and Hardison distracted Donnie and staked out the house, Eliot's job was to keep an eye on his daughter, Molly.

There was an instant bond formed between Molly and the gruff Hitter, and he even showed her how to beat rigged carnival games since she lived next to one. She even had the chance to go to said carnival with her Eastern European housekeeper, but insisted that Eliot go too. As Molly was using her new found skills, she overheard Eliot talking over his earbud, and she was intrigued. After some pestering, Eliot gave her a spare one to play with, which came in handy when she was kidnapped.

As it turned out, the Russians that Donnie was in cahoots with decided to change their arrangement by taking his daughter. From that point on, the mission changed from recovering the computer chip to recovering Molly. After the Crew was able to empty out the carnival, it became a standoff between them and Molly's captors, and Eliot went on a rampage of justice. When the dust settled, they were able to get back both Molly and the chip, and Eliot was rewarded with some TLC from a private care "nurse".

Much like "10 Li'l Grifters" and "Van Gogh", "The Carnival Job" was more than your everyday episode of Leverage. First, it was a great Eliot heavy story line, and it also reintroduced us to how he takes a personal interest in cases that involve children. We've seem some glimpses of this character trait in past episodes, but a substantial amount of time hasn't been paid to it since "The Order 23 Job". Honestly, we need to see more of this side of Eliot because it's easy to forget that he isn't as hard as he comes off, and I cannot wait to find out where this all stems from.

Like I've said numerous times before, I'm a big fan of the episodes that flip the script. Had "Carnival" just been about Donnie stealing the computer chip, it probably would have been entertaining, but not all tha special. Adding the kidnapping twist, and seeing the Crew switch gears to save a little girl's life made this episode exponentially better. Also, having a sympathetic mark and an unlikeable client was a good way to shake things up and remind the viewers that the Leverage-verse is filled with shades of gray.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • For some reason Hardison seemed extra geeky this time around. I liked it.
  • Why is it always Russians?
  • Bonus points for the Rudy shout-out.
  • Hardison and Parker are so cute!
  • I know it's cliche, but the Crew walking through the smoke was one of the best shots ever.
  • Who didn't see the twist involving the housekeeper coming a mile away?
  • Eliot is a Jedi!
  • Although it felt tacked on, all of the Parker vs. Parker 2000 stuff was cute. Especially when she wanted to call it Hardy.
  • I'm a much bigger fan of these kind of Eliot-centric episodes over the ones that focus on his folksiness ("Two-Horse", "Studio", "Underground").
  • "I am hypersensitive when people are building robots to replace me!"
  • "I'm a safe-cracking device."
  • "Told you not to call it Parker."
  • "Nate, if I'm engaged?" "Do your worst."
  • "I'd like to see Parker 2000 do that."
  • "I don't think she's registered."
Not only was "The Carnival Job" a good showcase for Eliot, but it was also an example of this show at its best. When all of the elements are there (a compelling story, good action, and real emotions) Leverage can be more than just popcorn television.


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