August 6, 2012

Episode Review: LEVERAGE, "The First Contact Job"

The key to a successful procedural show is creating characters and a world that are entertaining enough to get the audience through the by-the-numbers storytelling. One of the reasons why I've been sticking with Leverage is because this is what the show does best. For example, "The First Contact Job" didn't really do anything new it terms of the job of the week, but it had some amazing moments between the characters that I've grown to love, and that was enough to keep me entertained.

This week's client was Oren Metz, an inventor who was screwed out of some of his designs by his partner, James Kanack, who was going to sell the work to the highest bidder while also discrediting him. Nate figured that all Oren wanted was his work back, so the crew broke into Kanack's business to steal back the designs. While going through all of the data, Hardison realized that there was no proof that the worked belonged to Oren, but they stumbled across audio files of static, which proved that Kanack was trying to find signs of extraterrestrial life. From there, the plan changed to convincing Kanack that he made contact so he would dish out some cash as a way to compensate Oren.

Nate was successful at getting Metz $1 million from his old colleague, but that's not what Oren wanted; he wanted his reputation back. The con changed yet again as Nate decided to make the mark come off as a crazy person, thus causing the buyers of Metz's work to back out of their deal. In order to pull off the ruse, the team made Kanack think that the aliens were after him, and they concocted an elaborate scheme involving flickering lights, flying objects, Eliot dying, and Sophie being sucked into a vortex of some sort. Of course, everything worked out, and Kanack had a nervous breakdown in front of the media and his buyers who then ended up working with Oren directly.

As you can see, with the exception of aliens, the job of the week didn't stray too far from what Leverage has done in the past. We've had so many situations where the rich baddie screws over the little guy that it's become nothing more than a cliché, but I honestly didn't care about the client, the con, or the mark because I come back every week to watch these six characters interact with one another. Thankfully, "First Contact" had enough fun moments between the Crew that I forgot how mundane the actual job was, and by far the highlights involved Eliot and Hardison as their strained but hilarious friendship took center stage. I swear, the scene where the two of them were singing in the van might be the best thing the show has ever done. Period. Not only did we get some classic Eliot/Hardison exchanges, but we also got some good beats between Eliot and Parker as well as Parker and Hardison. I'll say it again; these three are the reasons I keep coming back to Leverage season after season.

Not every character exchange worked though. Once again, I found myself disinterested in what went on between Nate and Sophie, partly because I'll never be entertained by that relationship, but it also felt very strained because it came off as an excuse for Nate to be off of his game (which felt out of character) and to prove that Sophie's still relevant. Everything they said and did felt false in my opinion.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • Hey, they filmed this episode at Portland State's Urban Center! I love seeing my old PDX stomping grounds on TV.
  • Still loving the Pardison romance, and the fact that they have bets to determine their dates made them ever cuter.
  • Another cute Parker moment: her jamming to the static.
  • I dig it that Eliot's still taking the whole pub facade so seriously, and I got a kick out of him getting upset with Hardison for buying the wrong kind of salt.
  • I might be wrong, but I think that we got Eliot's first "very distinctive" of the season when he talked about the static.
  • You gotta love all of Parker's E.T. references.
  • Eliot and Hardison singing in the van was Leverage's top moment ever, but Eliot asking for an orange soda while pretending to be an alien geek was a close second.
Usually, I tend to get down on shows that have cemented themselves in their comfort zones, but I'm willing to cut Leverage a break as long as they keep churning out laugh out loud moments involving Eliot, Hardison and Parker. That being said, I hope it doesn't get too comfortable.


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