December 19, 2012

Episode Review: LEVERAGE, "The Toy Job"

'Tis the season for Christmas themed episodes, and of course Leverage had to get into the holiday spirit. While "The Toy Job" was not as strong as "The Ho Ho Ho Job" because it didn't flex any storytelling muscles, it was still serviceable enough to keep me entertained.

When a toy company executive was fired for not burying a safety report that would jeopardize the launch of its newest must-have toy, he went to the Leverage Crew for help. Trent Hazlit, a former arms dealer and head of the evil corporation of the week, was determined to release his newest stuffed animal just in time for Christmas in spite of the fact that it could pose a choking hazard, and it was up to our favorite grifters to keep it off of shelves. The plan was for them to put out their own hot toy to rival Hazlit's and push it out of the market.

Parker was in charge of finding a failed toy for them to sell, and she ended up going with a two-faced doll with both "happy" and "mad" expressions (although they resembled "indifferent" and "evil"), while Eliot pretended to be a single-father who infiltrated a ring of mommy bloggers and convinced them to endorse the new toy. Sophie's job was to act as an executive of a competing toy company with aspirations of overtaking Hazlit's prime retail space while also learning about the mark. Hardison was crunching numbers to figure out how to create a craze that would make their doll the hottest holiday gift of the season.

After a few setbacks, the Crew finally got Hazlit's attention after they padded the doll's pre-sale figures and because of Sophie's convincing act. An intrigued Hazlit tried to buyout the fake company as a way to get his hands on the doll, but Nate (playing the eccentric owner) refused. Sophie swooped in and agreed to betray Nate and join Hazlit for a price, and she even gave him one of the toys so he could have it tested for safety. Of course, Hazlit was up to no good because his real motivation was to steal the doll's specs so he could create knock-offs, but the Crew was a step ahead of him. When he shipped off the doll for safety testing, Hardison switched it with Hazlit's stuffed animal which obviously failed. The news quickly got out Hazlit was ruined.

Honestly, the episode's setup was standard Leverage as we once again had to deal with a massive company that would do anything to increase its sales and raise its stock value with zero regard to public safety. We've seen it all before, but guest star Gregg Henry made it work with his trademark hammy performance that pushed Hazlit into mustache-twirling territory without going so overboard that he became a caricature. To be fair, he was more over-the-top than previous baddies but he was also more convincing than the winery owner and the big box store exec. Also, the commentary on the commercialization of Christmas was nothing new but was still effective, as was the peek behind the curtain in terms of how the toy business operates.

My only issue with the episode was Nate's heavy-handed speech about his son at the very end. It was a tad too melodramatic and didn't really tell us anything new about the character, plus it felt like it was shoe-horned in to remind us of his motivations as the show approaches its series finale. To me, it came off as very manipulative rather than genuine and heartfelt.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • Shockingly enough, I think I'm going to miss Sophie's acting class.
  • The doll was disturbing, but leave it to this show to use it as an opportunity to showcase some insight into Parker.
  • Eliot creating his single dad character was pretty priceless.
  • Also priceless: Hardison's rant about his daddy issues.
  • Show's need to layoff on Christmas' pagan origins. It's no longer funny or interesting.
  • Hardison: "Don't hate the gift, hate the elf."
    Eliot: "I do hate the elf."
  • Nate: "OK. Hardison, you get on that lecture thing. And Eliot, you get on the mommies."
    Hardison: "And he doesn't meant that literally."
  • "What's the problem with getting emotionally butt-naked?"
It shouldn't surprise me that Leverage would play it safe as it heads into its homestretch, and I'm genuinely excited to see how things wrap up, but these last handful of episodes have reminded me that every show has a self-life and that Leverage has reached its. As much as I was entertained by "Toy Job," I couldn't shake the feeling that it was more of the same and how its time for the Leverage Crew to bow out gracefully. I will miss it though.


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