Leverage "The D.B. Cooper Job" Review: Flashback Heart Attack

By Julia Bergen

Aug 27, 2012

Leverage S05E06: "The D.B. Cooper Job"

This week, Leverage played with a little trick they've done before—the majority of the episode was a flashback to another decade that didn't include any of the main characters.

Before we talk about this episode, I want to briefly hit upon the show's last attempt at this maneuver in "The Van Gogh Job," an episode early in Season 4. In it, an elderly African American man told Nate the story of his star-crossed love during World War II. The story helped Nate recover a Van Gogh that had been hidden in an organ for decades. And quite frankly, the episode was TERRIBLE. I don't just watch Leverage for the heist stories (though those are cool), I watch because of the characters. The people in the old man's story were played by the same actors as the Leverage cast, but it wasn't the Leverage crew, and it was just plain weird.

So going in to the "D. B. Cooper Job" I was not expecting anything good. I knew from the previews that this was going to be another period episode, set in the 70s instead of World War II. But, a few episodes ago I vowed to not overthink this season and just enjoy the ride, so I was determined to keep an open mind. I don't know if it was my low expectations or not, but I really enjoyed this one! I think the main reason is that even though the characters were different, the story held my attention better than "The Van Gogh Job" did. Was it one of the best Leverage episodes ever? No. But it was certainly entertaining, and at the end of the day that's why I watch TV.

To start the episode off, McSweeten returned! Nice continuity! Way way back in Season 1, Hardison and Parker met Todd McSweeten, a real FBI agent, when they were pretending to be FBI agents. Since then McSweeten and his partner have come across the Leverage team several times, and they've always been a big help—though this time McSweeten was the one who needed help. Todd's father was dying and so he was desperate to solve the one case his father never could—enter D. B. Cooper. In 1971 Cooper hijacked a plane before parachuting away with $200,000.

Nate talked to the father, Peter McSweeten, who told him the story of his investigation. The rest of the crew met with Steve Reynolds, McSweeten's partner. Reynolds had been personally involved in the case because his wife was a stewardess on the plane. Aaaaand, cue the flashback to the 70s with the Leverage actors playing the various characters. Nate and Sophie's doppleganger characters were Mr. and Mrs. Peter McSweeten, Todd's parents. McSweeten senior had just been promoted to the FBI office in Seattle when he got called in on the Cooper case.

Cooper gave a stewardess (Parker in character) a note saying he had a bomb. He demanded that when the plane land authorities give him $200,000 and four parachutes. The pilot was then to fly to Mexico City, but keep its altitude low. He then parachuted out en route. The stewardess gave the FBI a very detailed description of Cooper's face, but they never found him.

Partway through the story, Nate interrupted to take a phone call from the crew. They had found a Daniel Cooper who seemed to fit the bill, and were on their way to find him.

McSweeten Sr. went on to talk about how the failed investigation affected him. He was unofficially demoted, and for a while became obsessed with the Cooper case, which upset his wife and made his son just as fixated on D. B. Cooper. After meeting with the stewardess McSweeten became thoroughly impressed by her husband, Reynolds (played by Eliot), that he hired him on to the FBI. Reynolds had been having a tough time finding work after coming home from Vietnam. They became partners and solved all sorts of crimes together.

Back in the present, Sophie called Nate from the graveyard. The Daniel Cooper they suspected had died in Vietnam three years before the crime, so he couldn't possibly be D. B. cooper.

Throughout his story, McSweeten Sr. emphasized the importance of compassion and feeling sympathy for criminals. At first Nate disagreed with him, stating that criminals couldn't be redeemed. McSweeten insisted they could, then went on to tell Nate that he shouldn't worry too much about solving the D. B. Cooper case, but should make sure his son didn't dwell on it.

At that point, with all this talk of redemption, I realized Reynolds must be D. B. Cooper. Whatever, I was still enjoying the ride.

Sure enough, Nate put it together that the main criteria the FBI used for finding Cooper was the sketch of his face. But if that wasn't true, then it meant the stewardess was lying to cover for the real Cooper. They went through the records and found that the Daniel Cooper they found previously, who died in 1968, served with Reynolds in Vietnam.

Nate went to confront Reynolds, but Todd showed up too. Reynolds admitted to hijacking the plane. In Vietnam he promised Dan Cooper that he would take care of his family, which is why he needed the $200,000. The stewardess felt bad for him, so she lied to the police about what he looked like. Reynolds later showed up at the stewardess' house, they fell in love and got married. McSweeten's son still arrested Reynolds, but later felt bad about it. So he went off to drink expensive scotch with Nate and gave Nate his father's cherished copy of The Odyssey. Sounds appropriate, right?

After Todd left, Sophie sat down with Nate to discuss the case. And The Odyssey. When Nate first asked Sophie who he would be in The Odyssey, I had the exact same reaction as Sophie. Clearly, due to his cleverness and trickery, Nate would be Odysseus. But Nate nailed it better: He would be a siren—promising sailors their deepest wishes before using it against them to lure them to their doom. Such a great parallel. Nate was sick of his role, and so told Sophie, "I want to build something."

I'm dying to know what Nate intends to build! Is this what he and Hardison have been planning? Is this why he was pushing Eliot so hard last episode?

The only semi obnoxious thing about this episode was obvious: We didn't get to spend much time with the crew because the story wasn't about them this week. Even in the story, Hardison and Sophie's actors didn't really get to do anything. I wish the show would do a little better at balancing out their characters. They've got five amazing people, but it's almost like they don't know how to handle them all. And if Leverage is going to do a period episode again, I really wish they'd let Parker's actress be something a little more interesting than the standard love interest.

Bonus trivia: After the episode I did some wikipedia-ing and found that D. B. Cooper was a real case. However, it probably didn't go down as dramatically as it did in this episode. In reality there were two stewardesses who saw D. B. Cooper and when questioned separately their descriptions of his face were almost identical. Still very interesting though! I liked that they used an actual crime for this.


...What's your take on these period episodes? If they do another one, what decade should they use?
...When did you realize Reynolds was D. B. Cooper?
...Who would the rest of the crew be in The Odyssey?
...What do you think Nate's big scheme is?

  • Comments (28)
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  • lucdejonge Sep 02, 2012

    They should just seriously start avoiding period episodes, won't watch any of them again, just don't like it.

  • BeckiFaye Aug 30, 2012

    With the exception of the season 4 premiere I hated ALL of last season. This year has been good so far, with a few missteps. But I loved this episode. I remain intriqued about the DB Cooper case, which happened when I was still in school. I thought the show did a good job with the episode. And as one of the few people that HATE Parker and Hardison together it was nice to see her play off Eliot for a change. I thought everyone did a wonderful job. So far, season 5 has a huge thumbs up from me...especially compared to last season.

  • moustasch1 Aug 30, 2012

    Personally I find it sad that someone had to use Wikipedia to figure out that one of the most famous hijackings of the last 50 years was real.

  • JT_Kirk Aug 29, 2012

    I think "The Van Gogh Job" was so bad because of bad writing and editing, it jumped around and had too many extra plot ideas and a nebulous goal, there was ugly racism and no lightness anywhere, it felt like it was stretched too thin to get the WW2 feel across, it was terrible. This episode was the opposite of that one, there was levity and a real goal and it had fun playing in its '70s playground, and it had 2 very solid goals.

    The ending was a little more obvious than I would have liked although the twist was the innocence of the witness, but it was a satisfying way to conclude it, and it wasn't just another heist episode. Nate also had real character revelations and development, turning to Sophie for confession of his weaknesses.

    This was a great cast too, Fred Ward and Ronny Cox were very good here, and there was some fair comparison betwen Fred Ward's voice and Eliot's voice, that was fun. And while we didn't get much with our characters, each one had their own moment outside of the flashback, Parker especially getting to bring it all together in the beginning.

    I'm shocked to hear you didn't know about the DB Cooper case, it was a big deal when I was a kid in the '80s.

    I knew Reynolds was DB Cooper when we met him and found out who his wife was, and it was cemented when we flashback-met him and he said what his job was. Still, it was not handled poorly and I had fun with it watching them lay little clues for the audience.

  • bluemystique Aug 29, 2012

    -I actually preferred the Van Gogh job. I thought it balanced out the characters nicely and it was a nice balance between flashbacks and the present so everyone was utilized and it didn't feel too disjointed or foriegn. I thought the Van Gogh job was pretty fantastic and deserving of the award it received. I thought this one was okay. It was great seeing McSweetheart again. I like Ward...and there were some fun seventies moments that rocked. Err...next decade, I don't know, let's go for the 80's. 80's are fun and not too heavy where they have to tackle some of the obvious issues of previous decades.

    -How about the moment he went to interview the stewardess and Eliot's character was at her apartment. It was pretty predictable.

    -I haven't the slightest idea. That would take some thought.

    -He wants to retire...or maybe take on a different role. I don't know.

  • Indru_mai Sep 08, 2012

    I think so too. In fact, my two favourite episodes from this show, up until now, are The Rashomon Job and The Van Gogh Job.

  • KristinaGarci2 Aug 29, 2012

    How could you not know that D.B. Cooper was a real case? I thought everyone knew who D.B. Cooper was. (Spoiler Alert! Read on at your own risk.)He's basically realized sort of, what they do is a good thing. He wants to make this thing bigger. He wants to expand Leverage to other parts of the world. When Nate told Hardison that sometimes things that are good must end. He was talking about all of them working together, just the five of them. There going to have to spread out. Somebody has to train those people in the other countries. Plus they have a lot of people after them. They are going to have to spread out eventually or they will get caught. Think of what he is planning as sort of an anti mob.

    Work Cited


  • dalucy Sep 04, 2012

    Even over in Germany we know about D.B. Cooper...

  • KristinaGarci2 Aug 29, 2012

    If you want to see another version of DB Cooper watch the movie Without A Paddle.

  • bewareofcrazies Aug 28, 2012

    Personally, I disagree with almost all of the comments. I preferred the Van Gogh episode to this one. This episode was way too cheesy. Every time it flashed to the back, I rolled my eyes at the cheesy costuming and makeup and dialogue... I did not enjoy the flashbacks in this episode, but I really enjoyed the present-scenes.

    In contrast, I felt the opposite for the Van Gogh episode. I absolutely loved the flashbacks. I loved the whole love story, and I really thought the entire thing was rather heartbreaking. The present scenes? Other than Parker and the guy's talk, I thought it was rather boring. But the flashback episodes made up for it above and beyond.

    So, for me, 40's > 70's.

    If they decide to take on another decade, I'd like to see the 20's. I think anything earlier, and we'd be stretching more than just our suspension on disbelief.

    I realized Reynolds was Cooper the second that we saw him sitting on the plane in the first flashback before Christian Kane even took over the role. I said, "Is that Reynolds?" and then he was Cooper, and I was like, "...Same person."

    Everything else, no idea yet. Can't wait to find out, though!

  • stealth97 Aug 28, 2012

    I found the first "period episode" so boring that I stopped watching this one right when the "flashback" started. But from reading the comments I might give it a second chance. But my take on these period episodes I wish the shows I like avoided them at all cost.

  • JustinJohnson9 Aug 28, 2012

    This was a good period episode, unlike the Van Gogh one you mentioned. I was into the story the whole way, and everyone played their part well. Every show has episodes that may deviate a little from main storylines, which is just fine with me since they need them. Its simply impossible to have every episode focus on the multiple main storylines.

    I like period episodes as long as they're well done, like this one.

    When Nate realized the photo from the magazine was the same as the wife's description.

    Good question. I'd have to ponder that one some more.

    Your guess is as good as mine as to what Nate's big scheme is.

  • TroyBeams Aug 28, 2012

    Want to make a didn't know Cooper was real joke but still in disbelief.

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