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?