What I gathered from last's week's "next week on Leverage" promo was that "The Gimme a K Street Job" was going to be about government, but I didn't know it was going to be about cheerleading as well. Had I known, I might have been concerned that such different subjects would make for a terrible, poorly structured episode. And I would have been wrong! Shockingly, the balance between scenes at the cheerleading competition and scenes in congressional offices was satisfactory. Both sides of the story were equally interesting, and they actually complemented each other really well.
My only real complaint is that Eliot didn't get to hit anyone, but that's mostly because last week reminded me of how much I love Eliot's rage. If the rage doesn't return soon I'll be very sad.
A high school cheerleading coach approached Nate because one of her girls got injured at practice. Technically cheerleading wasn't considered a school sport, so it didn't have strict safety regulations. One company, Prep, owned by Wendy Baran, benefited from this. She ran all of the companies that sold pretty much anything to cheerleaders, from uniforms to competition fees to insurance (remember that one, it'll be important later). Basically she owned cheerleading. If cheerleading were to become a recognized sport, though, Baran's monopoly over it wouldn't be possible, since one company isn't allowed to own a sport. The coach was terrified that if everything continued at the status quo, more girls would get hurt.
Nate's solution was a lot more extreme than usual. I get the feeling he's getting over-confident. I can't imagine Season 1 Nate manipulating congress to get a law passed. But yes, Nate's solution was to get Congress to make cheerleading a sport—there's the political tie-in! Seven congressmen would be deciding, so the crew needed to convince four. And of those four, one had to be LeGrange, since he was in charge of the committee.
And there you have it, any doubts I had about a cheerleading/government plot being convoluted died on impact. The show found a way to combine the two and it made perfect sense. It also helped that Parker—pretending to be the cheerleading coach's replacement—was hilarious. She tried to make the girls run a "standard" gymnastics drill through a laser grid. While at the competition, Parker tried to break into Baran's office. This took her longer than usual, though, because there were cameras everywhere and she had a squad of cheerleaders to look after.
Each of the four congressmen had a different "hook," or way to get them to do what you want. Nate's target was easy—his congressman just wanted money. The other marks' demands were a disturbingly accurate assessment of why it's so hard for government to do anything. Hardison's mark was against making cheerleading a sport because it would cost $20 million. She wouldn't sign on unless Hardison could find the money. Each time Hardison found unused government money, there was some stipulation—often from the first half of the twentieth century, restricting how the money could be used. Sophie's congressman would only vote her way if she could get him corn subsidies. This led Sophie on a trail of deals, since no one was willing to give anything without getting something in return.
Eliot's assigned congressman, LeGrange, was by far the hardest. He didn't want money or power, and as Eliot said, "You can't con an honest man." Eliot tried various tactics but none of them worked. Baran, however, had no problem at all convincing LeGrange. She didn't try big bribes: Instead, she named the competition after him, put a picture of him from his high school quarterback days on a big screen, and gave him a trophy (oh, and remember that trophy, too!)
Parker finally broke into Baran's office and discovered she was trying to get a lot of money together very quickly. Nate found out that Baran was looking to buy Prep, since she ran it but didn't officially own it. So it was actually in her best interest for congress to vote in her favor (against the bill), but only after she had enough money to buy the company. If the bill to make cheerleading a sport did not pass, which was certainly where it was headed, Prep's stock would go up but so would the price to buy it.
Knowing Baran's game gave Nate the perfect way to trap her. First, he moved the vote to the very next day and told Baran about it. She needed to get the money to buy Prep that day, and tried to siphon money from her other businesses. Hardison, using his new-found knowledge of archaic law, got Baran's computer to come up with a reason for why taking money from each company was illegal. Eventually she took the money from the insurance division. See, told you that'd be important. The fund was huge because the insurance hardly ever paid claims.
It was a bold move, and stupid, too: The Federal Insurance Commission started investigating her. And it all went down at the competition, right in front of LeGrange. Things looked especially bad since Parker had planted money in LeGrange's trophy, making it appear an awful lot like a bribe. LeGrange was terrified of bribery allegations, so Nate advised he stay as far away from Prep as possible. Hardison and Sophie finally got their congressmen what they needed, and with all four congressmen on the team's side and their rival out of commission, the law passed easily. Go, Go S-A-F-E-T-Y SAFETY! (For cheerleaders!)
This episode wasn't a far cry from the other Leverage episodes we've seen so far this season, but the two corresponding storylines were actually tighter and more dynamic than we've seen yet. Here's hoping that this trend continues!
Questions:...So, should cheerleading be a sport?
...Who do you wish Eliot had punched in this episode?
...If Parker had been the cheerleading coach at your high school, would it have made you try out for the squad?