August 29, 2011

Episode Review: LEVERAGE, "The Queen's Gambit Job"

Season 4 of Leverage wrapped up its summer run by pulling out all of the stops and bringing back fan-favorite Jim Sterling. While it's always great to have Mark Sheppard back on the show, "The Queen's Gambit Job" was very good that just fell short of being great.

The action started off with a car chase in the streets of Dubai involving Nate, and right before we had the chance to see who is in the other vehicle we got the "three days earlier" cut. Next thing we know, we're in McRory's watching Nate and Sophie flirt which was interrupted by Sterling and his men.

Interpol's been interfering with Kazakhstan's nuclear program, but Sterling needed the Leverage Crew to steal a key piece of technology in order to keep it out of terrorist hands, which was why they were in Dubai. This week's mark, Robert Livingston, was responsible for the tech and was also having a large-scale chess tournament in the U.A.E.

Livingston's step-daughter, Olivia, was a chess prodigy which was why he hosted the tournament in the first place. Nate figured the only way the con could work was for him to enter the tournament and face off with Olivia so Livingston would be distracted while Eliot and Sterling kept their eyes on the buyers, and Parker and Hardison stole the tech from his unhackable vault. Sophie was just there to dupe the other chess players.

Of course, the mission was not going to be easy. Livingston's vault was so top-of-the-line that Hardison and Parker were having a hard time figuring out how to break in, which ended up getting to Parker, but fortunately Hardison was there to support her. Things got even hinkier when Sterling drugged Eliot and ended up pulling his own fast-one on the Crew and on Livingston.

As it turned out, Sterling's motivations had nothing to do with keeping the tech out of the Kazakhstani hands. Olivia was his daughter, and he was trying to get her away from Livingston and out of harm's way. Nate and Crew's mission was supposed to be a distraction while Sterling plotted to get Olivia back.

"The Queen's Gambit Job" was more about the relationships between the characters than it was about saving the world from nuclear weapons. The bond between Nate and Sterling has been one of the most intriguing aspects of Leverage, and I was reminded of how it can captivate me. We've always known that they have some form of professional respect for one another, but we were meant to believe that they were friends in a prior life. "Queen's Gambit" clouded that history, and it made me wonder what happened between them. That's a story I'd love to see more of.

We also got some more great moments between Parker and Hardison, which has been a delight to see evolve this season. Watching Parker get flustered by being weighed down and how Hardison knew exactly what to say and do to calm her down was wonderful. The call back to "The Reunion Job" was also a nice touch. Some of these "will they, won't they" gimmicks can get tiresome after a while, but so far Leverage has nailed it with these two. Too bad the same cannot be said about Nate and Sophie, but that's for another post.

Like I mentioned before, "Queen's Gambit" was a very good episode that could have been great. The episode's reliance on worn out cliches like the "three days earlier" crutch was distracting because it's such a cheap trick. I also wished they had concealed the big twist a little better because it was clear that Olivia was Sterling's daughter as soon as she started tapping her chess piece and talked about her real dad teaching her how to win. I get that the writers needed to put in clues to lead up to the reveal, but these felt a little clumsy.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • The show needs to make Mark Sheppard a regular already.
  • Parker speaking French will always be kinda hot.
  • I'd be all for an odd couple/buddy cop spin-off involving Sterling and Eliot.
  • Apparently, nerds are extremely gullible.
  • Pardison = Best Ship of TV. Take that B&Bers.
  • DDR!
  • Nate was always black. How subtle.
  • "Hello, Nate."
  • "This thing is like the nuclear equivalent of the One Ring."
  • Eliot: "Stop playing with stuff."
    Parker: "I wanted to hit it."
    Eliot: "Don't hit it."
  • Hardison: "It is so great seeing all of these athletes in their prime."
    Eliot: "Where the hell do you see athletes?"
  • "Parker smash!"
  • "I told him to stop yelling at me!"
  • "You're not alone. You have a team. You have me, and I got you. I got you girl."
  • "It was my real dad who taught me how to win."
  • Hardison: "So, I'm guessing you want to hit some bad guys, huh?"
    Eliot: "Why, you know where some are?"
Small quibbles aside, "The Queen's Gambit Job" had enough strong character and relationship moments to overcome its short comings. I still cannot put this week's episode along side some of the better Leverage episodes, but it was a strong end to the first part of Season 4. Waiting until November is going to be tough.


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