August 26, 2012

Episode Review: LEVERAGE, "The D.B. Cooper Job"

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been hard on shows like White Collar for not straying too far out of their comfort zones, but I've been willing to cut Leverage a little more slack but it too has been sticking to its formula an awful lot this season. That was until "The D.B. Cooper Job."

The episode kicked off with two masked individuals stealing information from the Portland branch of the F.B.I. After being interrupted by guards, and getting away, it was revealed that Parker was one of the culprits along with Special Agent Todd McSweeten. Apparently, McSweeten's father (also an F.B.I. agent) was dying of cancer, and his life's mission was to take down the mysterious con-man known as D.B. Cooper. Our favorite fed went to Parker for help, but Nate was unwilling to assist until she asked him to talk to McSweeten for her. Posing as a profiler, he decided to assist McSweeten and his father gain some closure in regards to Cooper.

As Nate talked to Peter McSweeten, the audience was transported back to the '70s as he filled in as the agent responsible for tracking down D.B. Cooper after he hijacked a plane, demanded a ransom of $200,000 and jumped into the middle of a wooded area, never to be found again. Along the way our favorite bad guys played the roles of other key players in the story (Sophie was McSweeten's wife, Eliot was his parter, Parker was the stewardess who was working with the feds.)

The majority of the episode revolved around McSweeten's quest to find Cooper. After he was demoted by the F.B.I. for letting Cooper get away, he became obsessed with the case, which in turn had an effect on his young son. While following up with the stewardess who last saw Cooper alive, he met her husband Steve Reynolds. He was ex-military whom McSweeten saw potential in, so he asked him to join the Bureau to help him track down the mysterious grifter. The two became a dynamic duo that solved some of the F.B.I.'s coldest cases, but they were never able to catch the man they wanted most.

In the present day, Hardison worked with Reynolds as they went through the case file to see if there were any clues that could help the Crew solve the mystery. Meanwhile, Nate's conversation with the elder McSweeten started to hit home as they talked about sons being haunted by the missteps of their fathers. One of the last things Peter asked Nate was to make sure Todd didn't become consumed by Cooper like he had. He passed away the next day. The mastermind continued to try and close the case so Todd didn't have to.

While combing through the evidence again, something clicked in Nate's head. He had Hardison pull up the sketch the stewardess described for the authorities and had him compare it to the back of an old in-flight magazine. As it turned out, the stewardess lied to the feds about the man who hijacked the plane and ended up marrying him. So, the elusive D.B. Cooper was really Steve Reynolds and had been working with Peter McSweeten the entire time.

Reynolds was in the military with the real Cooper, and he promised to help his friend's family before Cooper died in battle. That's why he commandeered the plane and demanded a ransom. Nate went to Steve's house to confront him about what he figured out, and he had a gun pulled on him, but Agent McSweeten showed up in the nick of time to learn the truth about his father's old partner. Reynolds was in cuffs when Nate had a heart to heart with Todd. He reminded him that his father passed down his ability to see the good in people and that Reynolds was not the criminal D.B. Cooper was suspected of being, and he had been reformed thanks to his father's friendship and trust. Ultimately, McSweeten let Reynolds go and was somewhat comforted by the idea that his father gave a man a second chance at life.

As the episode ended, Nate struggled with who had become because he's now someone who can only see the bad in people, and he admitted to Sophie that he wanted to build something rather than just tear people down.

Boy, that was a lot to get through which is funny since a lot did not happen during "D.B. Cooper," but there were so many character moments that it was a jam-packed hour of television, and it was one of the better Leverage episodes to boot. In a lot of ways, "Cooper" was reminiscent of last season's "The Van Gogh Job" because it took us back in time, and we got to see the Crew inhabit the lives of other people. It was also a character study on Nate, much like how "Van Gogh" was a study on Parker. Also, there wasn't a traditional job, rather a mystery that our favorite cons had to solve. All of these elements reminded me of what this show's capable of when it decides to try new things, and I'm hoping for more of these kinds of episodes during this current season.

Other Odds and Ends
  • You gotta love McSweeten. Quite possibly one of the most fun recurring characters Leverage has.
  • Aw, Nate's a sucker for Parker's puppy dogs.
  • I loved the '70s backdrop because it added so much to the overall storytelling. Plus, it was responsible for cheesy action sequences, putting Parker in an old-school stewardess uniform and giving Eliot an epic stache.
  • The only thing I didn't love about this one was the fact that Parker and Eliot were playing a married couple. Sure, it wasn't their characters, but I couldn't help but cringe when they kissed. I've always seen them as brother and sister, so them making out was a little icky.
  • Dang it, what is Nate up to this season?
Last season was one of Leverage's best because it was bold enough to try new things. So far, Season 5's been playing it relatively safe, but "D.B. Cooper" had me longing for the outside-of-the-box tricks that the show pulled out last year. I get that it wants to stick with its bread-and-butter, but it can be so fun when things are shaken up for a bit.


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