Last week, I complained about Leverage's fake alien con. After I wrote up my review, I whined about the episode to my husband, who wasn't able to tune in when it aired. He watched it later... and loved it. The fellow has pretty good taste, so I decided to rethink my approach to this season. With "The French Connection Job," I was determined not to scrutinize every little thing. I don't know if it was my new outlook or not, but I really enjoyed this episode.
Toby Heath, the man who taught Eliot how to cook, lost his culinary school and the affiliated restaurant he was almost ready to open to his investor, David Lampard. Kind of the same premise as last week, when a scientist's investor stole the scientist's invention, and it's kind of weird that we've never heard about this guy from Eliot before. But I promised myself I wouldn't nitpick—and besides, this is Eliot we're talking about. He's not exactly chatty about his past or his personal life. Plus I loved how the situation it raised the stakes. Every week, Leverage faces the challenge of making each job feel important. The show usually does a good job at this, but this week knocked it out of the park.
The culinary school gave underprivileged students a chance to learn something productive, and the restaurant would have given them a place to work. Lampard planned to use the school to earn $30,000 per student, and the restaurant to overcharge patrons. Toby was convinced Lampard was dealing drugs, after he overheard a conversation between Lampard and some sketchy foreign-types.
At the same time, Sophie was enthralled in her new acting school. Seeing Sophie so happy with her acting and Eliot so into his cooking made Parker worry that she wasn't particularly interested in anything. Besides thievery, of course. So she got Eliot to teach her how to like cooking. As you can imagine, it did not go so well, but it was hilarious to watch.
Eliot and Hardison infiltrated the school as teacher and student, respectively. It was fun seeing Hardison get so into molecular gastronomy, but hasn't the boy ever read (or seen) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Something that tastes like a three-course meal but isn't sounds way too close to Three-Course Dinner Chewing Gum.
And if now you're picturing Hardison swelling up like a blueberry, YOU'RE WELCOME.
Eliot smelled what the dealers brought but it wasn't drugs—it was truffles. Apparently black-market truffles are as valuable as drugs, since they're so difficult to cultivate. Nate posed as a dealer and tried to sell Lampard truffles grown locally in Portland. Sophie played the part of a free-spirited farmer who owned the land the truffles grew on. Looking back, there wasn't all that much point to Sophie being there. Nate could have pretended the land was his. But I did really like Sophie's hippie chick, so I let it slide. Hilarity should always trump logic.
Nate sold Lampard a bag of truffles, and then Hardison used his cameras to find where Lampard was hiding his stash at the culinary school so the crew could steal them back. On opening night of the school's restaurant, their plan went into action. Hardison set up Parker as a famous food critic so Lampard would be too distracted keeping her happy to notice he was being robbed. Parker had a hard time even pretending to appreciate food, despite Eliot's lessons. So Sophie had to coach her on what facial expressions to use to look like she was enjoying her meal. It's always great watching Parker trying to be normal.
However, Lampard's supplier was angry that he was being replaced. He sent his minions to kidnap the chef to get back at Lampard. Which was AMAZING. Of all the people in that restaurant, he had to choose Eliot. Completely unfazed, Eliot kept running the kitchen while fighting angry French minions; now THERE'S a challenge I'd like to see on a cooking show! How is it that no one's tried combining American Gladiators and Top Chef? Did I just solve television?
With everyone else busy, Hardison had to scuttle up an air duct and steal the truffles, plus the wads of cash stored there too. His escape was a little dicey, as he wound up getting chased through the restaurant's dining room by Lampard's body guard. Sophie's acting class took care of that, though. Perfectly in character, she encouraged the diners to give Lampard hugs for such a successful opening. Since the restaurant was full of Sophie's acting students who had been prepped for this, their hugs let Hardison get through the dining room and into the kitchen, where Eliot was waiting.
Eliot apparently had a history with the bodyguard, made even worse by how badly the bodyguard had beaten Toby. Eliot cleared out his students, and then got serious. And honestly, it has been WAY too long since we've seen Eliot get serious. A lot of Leverage episodes don't have a place for Eliot to hulk out, and that's fine. I just need a little taste, every now and again.
It's not a problem, I promise. I can stop whenever I want.
Lampard fled the country (I didn't catch why, but no matter), but on his way through customs, agents found truffles on him. So the villain got arrested, Eliot's mentor got to keep his school—now with extra funding!—and Parker is learning more about how to be excited about things besides break-ins, concluding an episode that was just so much fun to watch. Screw cynicism, for the rest of this season, I'm just sitting back and not worrying about the details.
– Would you take Sophie's acting class?
– What other hobbies should Parker try?
– When do you think we'll see more of that secret Nate and Hardison were talking about in the season opener?
– Would you eat Hardison's science projects?