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Leverage: Men (and Women) in Black

Leverage S05E03: "The First Contact Job"

I knew from the episode promos that this week's Leverage was going to involve aliens. I wasn't worried. Leverage has done episodes about buried treasure and the Spruce Goose being a stealth plane. I figured we were in for a funny installment that would also have all of Leverage's trademark style and wit.

Ugh.

I'll give it this, there were a ton of fun moments. I loved Parker's E.T. impersonation, Hardison and Elliot singing in Lucille, and Hardison messing with Elliot about the satellite (and, of course, Elliot's reaction). There was no lack of humor, but usually on Leverage the comedy is secondary to the plot. This episode it felt like the writers came up with the jokes first, then found a plot that strung them all together.

The client this week was an inventor, Oren Metz, who created a hybrid jet engine, only to have his designs stolen by his investor, James Kanack. Not satisfied just to steal, Kanack also made Metz seem crazy, so no one else would ever hire him. The inventor wasn't interested in money, he just wanted to be able to work again. As Nate walked away from the table, he repeated Metz's request—to destroy Kanack and restore Metz's reputation.

Remember that, because it's going to be important. And infuriating.

The crew poked around Kanack's company and found that he was monitoring satellites, looking for extraterrestrial messages. Nate put together that Kanack was obsessed with fame, and the way to become the most famous scientist in the world would be to make contact with life in space. Hardison set up a dummy signal to look like it was coming from deep space. Elliot posed as a UFO hunter and Sophie posed as a cytologist, all to lure Kanack into giving Nate an under-the-table payment of $1 million to lease a satellite to contact the extraterrestrials.

Oh yeah, and Hardison and Parker pretended to be government agents, just to sell the bit.

Everything worked perfectly... until Nate set out to deliver the million dollars to Metz, expecting him to be giddy over his new-found wealth. But what's this? He didn't want money, he just wanted his reputation back?! Who would have thunk? Sophie chided Nate for not listening to the client, but here's the thing: Nate SAID after meeting Metz that he would restore the inventor's reputation. Which means it wasn't an issue of Nate "not listening," it was an issue of Nate understanding something and then forgetting it five seconds later. Metz's request was hardly unusual; the Leverage team has had TONS of clients who weren't just after money, but who also wanted to clear their names. Nate "not listening" to client felt very forced, at felt like it was coming out of nowhere.

This probably wouldn't have bothered me on another show, but Leverage is better than that. Nate is a highly flawed character, but so far the show has done a wonderful job of slowly and subtly establishing his shortcomings. In Season 1 Nate's alcoholism developed gradually, until he was completely out of control. The series has never shown Nate as having a problem with listening. This just felt lazy.

Needing to continue the con, the crew proceeded to ruin Kanack's credibility. Elliot knocked out the security guards at Kanack's company, but left behind their shoes, making it look as if they had been abducted. Hardison rigged Kanack's office so that Kanack would hear weird sounds, steam would come out of the coffee maker, and the refrigerator would open on its own. Elliot babbled about the aliens taking everyone away, and the team used a harness to make it look like Sophie was sucked into a green light.

The result was to drive Kanack into a terrified state, but also to make me want to throw my remote across the room. This is the second time this season (and remember, we've only seen THREE episodes so far), where the endgame of the con has been to use a lot of special effects to convince the mark that something bizarre is happening. And in ALL three episodes this season the endgame has depended on Hardison's gadgets.

I like Hardison's gadgets, but I don't like when every con relies on them. If the crew uses them for the finishing move every time, then it feels like that's the only option they have for pulling a con. But we know there are so many other things they can do. Besides, it's a lot more entertaining to see the villain taken down via pure human deception that because Hardison used a fancy machine.

Anyway, Kanack flipped out at his own press conference, and Nate took advantage of the situation to introduce Metz to the man who was going to buy his hybrid engine from Kanack.

So basically, "The First Contact Job" gave us a zany concept and some funny scenes, but not much else. With Leverage, I've really come to expect more than that.


QUESTIONS:

– Am I being too harsh on this episode? What'd you think of it?

– Will Sophie be as bad of a director as she is an actress?

– How adorable are Parker and Hardison?

– Is it just me, or was Elliot not as cranky this week?

Comments (22)
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the thing bout Nate is that as parker had said he has a habit of always trying to be in control. he has this oversized ego that tends to draw his focus on what he deems important. my guess is that he didn't forget about the man's reputation (he's the man who sets an alarm for setting an alarm). he was self indulged in his own thoughts on making the CEO garnish his assets that he dismissed the man wanting his reputation to be restored thinking the money would have been enough. it didn't seemed forced to me. after watching leverage for the amount of tie i have, i know two things about nate: one, he is self obsessed and two he rarely forgets. if you keep those two characteristics in mind, the storyline makes more sense.



and if you're going to say that if was said in black in white by sophie that he 'didn't listen' think about the connotation of that phrase. then it all fits into place.
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If you've been watching Leverage regularly you'll know there are certain episodes when they throw in things that reference other movies (Parker bothering "ELIOT" with E.T. impressions) Eliot getting to play a character "Willey Riker" that referenced Jonathon Frakes' Star Trek character. It's the little things that hardcore fans will pick up on and others might not. For those who don't get it, it's still a good story. My favorite part was when Sophie was screaming for help and the mark wouldn't let her in. Great comedy! We're in on this con every step of the way. It's my favorite episode because of the comedy, I laughed like crazy.
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I didn't care much for the story, but I didn't actually mind while watching. The humor was higher in this episode than the previous ones this season, and that was fine with me. It was enough for me to watch enjoyably.
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Eliot's character this time around was named "Willie Riker", the episode was directed by Jonathan Frakes who played Will Riker on Star Trek The Next Generation for 7 seasons, and in one scene in the background there's a statue or action figure (it was not in the focus of the shot) of a Will Riker figure sitting in the Enterprise's captain's chair and the figure was waving.



You are right on the money with this, it was a lot of antics without a real story behind them, it was thin even for this show.



Sophie will be a terrible director not because of her bad acting, but because she won't be able to let things lie, she will micromanage her actors off the stage.



Eliot really wasn't cranky enough this episode. That's fine if they had something in mind for the character, but they didn't really show it, it just felt like they didn't write for the character enough.
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- I actually enjoyed it better than the previous two. More specifically the premiere which fell flat for me. I thought it was okay. I do agree that this season has started off on the weaker side as far as the writing goes.

-Doubtful. LOL

-Super adorable! I mean they're just the cutest. Them being together hasn't really impacted the team vibe, which I'm sure those against shipping were most worried about. Love them!

- Ha ha. I think he was really getting into his character and put the grumpiness on hold. : )
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"As Nate walked away from the table, he repeated Metz's requestto destroy Kanack and restore Metz's reputation." Nope, he said, "So we'll get your files back and we'll destroy the guy." At about the 2:35 mark. It doesn't make sense that Nate is suddenly listening to people... unless it has to do with the thing going on between him and Hardison.
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So, I think we now know who was not listening.
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I used to enjoy this show until I realized it is thinly disguised propaganda. Ever notice how the "villains" are always independent businessmen. . .the kind of people who provide jobs for so many?



According to this show, they are all evil and spend every waking moment trying to figure out how to hurt people.



Just remember, Robin Hood didn't rob from the rich to give to the poor. . .he stole from the tax collectors and gave back to the tax payers.



No business can remain profitable for long if there sole intent is cause harm. Our free enterprise system would have collapsed long ago if this wer the case.



How about an episode featuring scheming liberal politicians?



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Always? What show are you watching? Maybe part of this season has been small business owners.

Most of all of the older episodes: the bad guys were typically CEOs of GIGANTIC companies with public stocks and what-not. Maybe 2/3 would be larger companies screwing the little guy.

So by splitting it, they try to be fair. Though this season, yeh... 2/3 have been smaller companies instead.
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Dang it, when's Elliot gonna get some lovin'? Poor guy's gonna go stir crazy.
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I also like how Elliot dropped the "Drake Equation" bomb on Hardison, who just kind of paused after hearing that. LOL - you never know when you need to fight an alien.
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I wasn't a fan of Hardison's "uber-gadget" It's one thing to use a super-magnet or weighted boots, it's another when you whip out the modern-day equivalent of a Sonic Screwdriver that does just about everything.

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OK, yeah, in comparison to what Leverage has done before, the episode sucked.

But my Star Trek heart went all giddy when I saw that Jonathan Frakes directed the episode and he brought with him the best he could. What got me really excited was Elliott's cover ID Willie Riker, seeing as how William T. Riker was the name of Jonathan Frakes' Star Trek character. So let us at least give a nod to the man for being able to not be annoyed by being defined as "Number One" and being able to laugh about it.

Sunny out
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As for Hardison's gadgets, I'm OK with them popping up every-other or every-third episode. BUT so long as they're not too out there. The whole remote thing might as well have been called the "Deus Ex 2000" since it could do just about anything.

But I'm fine with large magnets, specially weighted boots, light effects, etc.
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Got give Hardison credit for being green though, he recycled the speakers he used in the Spruce Goose and stuck them in the marks's office.
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Who was the guy in the suit waiting outside the trailer when they collected Elliot and his computers? :S
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Two possibilites, the last couple of seasons have had some uber-con in the second half of the season, so this might be the first sighting of the season-end villian's henchmen. The other possibility is that we know that the relocation to Portland was to get everyone off the radar because of something Nate did, maybe Hardison wasn't able to clear up all the traces of the team and the guy is in suit has something to do with Nate's vacation.

Make that three possibilites, both of the above :)
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This! I honestly thought they were going to play the military signals at the press conference and that guy was going to be Homeland or some such (though Leverage only works because they don't go against the CIA and whatnot)
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I thought it was "fun" BUT I prefer when the comedy take a back seat to the actual caper. Sure, all of their capers have great comedic moments but this one was a bit much. I'm FINE with wacky episodes every now and then but just so long as they're dished out in moderation; like a couple per season.

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"As Nate walked away from the table, he repeated Metz's requestto destroy Kanack and restore Metz's reputation.



Remember that, because it's going to be important. And infuriating. "



sorry but ur wrong nate walked away from the table saying he would get the guys money back and destroy the guy. Thats probably why you had trouble with this episode. Because obviously you like Nate in this episode were not listening!!!
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Nate said "OK, so we'll get your files back and destroy the guy."



If you go with the whole not listening theme, Nate probably thought Metz wanted the files so that he could get the contract with the company, and then when they couldn't prove the files were his, Nate decided to just get him money. Although proving the files were Metz's would have probably gotten him his reputation back, Nate didn't set out to do that from the beginning.
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That's what I *thought* Nate replied with too... mentioning money. But... that was over 12 hours ago... since then I've watched others shows, slept, and started working. So maybe I'm remembering incorrectly. But I'm not a reviewer on TV.com so I have an excuse if I am.
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