There are two types of Leverage episodes: The ones with super high stakes (and that generally involve Eliot hitting a bunch of people) and the fun, silly ones (where Eliot just looks like he wants to hit a bunch of people). Sunday night's episode was neither.
The villain this week, Gabe Erickson, had conned people out of their life savings then avoided prosecution by offering to testify against his mob contacts—mob contacts he had gotten for just that reason. He was hiding a huge amount of his money and the Leverage team intended to steal it before making Erickson stand trial for his crimes.
This made for a very low stakes episode: None of the main characters had anything personally invested. Erickson wasn't currently putting anyone in danger. Okay, he did give away the ending of a book to a little girl. And sure, he ruined people's lives and was a bad guy, but when Leverage is working a high stakes episode they give us more than that. Nothing particularly hilarious happened in Sunday's episode either, keeping it from being a fun, silly episode. None of the characters even got to do anything particularly cool.
When the crew looked into Erickson they discovered he loved expensive vintage cars. He once had a huge collection, but they were seized when he was arrested. If the crew could get him to buy one back then Hardison could find out where he was hiding his stash. Of course they couldn't go after him right away because Erickson was in witness protection with a Federal Marshall living in his house and watching his every move. Maybe this was meant to raise the stakes for the team, but the Marshall didn't really present a real enough threat to do it for me.
To distract the Marshall, Sophie and Eliot posed as suspicious neighbors, encouraging her to think they were mob-related hit men sent to whack Erickson. I'll admit, there were a couple of funny moments there: I liked Eliot asking the Marshall about their home security, and I did laugh when Eliot and Sophie loaded obvious murder supplies into the trunk of their car. But we've seen these two portray far more hilarious characters, so I wasn't completely sold.
With the Marshall otherwise occupied, Nate pretended to be a shipper specializing in vintage cars. He told Erickson about a car show (which the crew hastily put together themselves), where they arranged for Erickson to overhear Parker talking about a vintage car she was trying to sell.
Now, here was the real missed opportunity: The girl Parker was pretending to be was so boring and ordinary. “Boring” and “ordinary” are two words you never want to say in the same sentence as "Parker." It would have been so easy for Parker to play someone outrageous, and the fact that she didn't really makes me wonder if the writers had something out for her this week or something.
For that matter, why was Parker even in this position? Wouldn't it have been a better place for Sophie, the grifter? It makes sense for other crew members to take a grifter spot when Sophie's doing something more important or already blown her identity, but that wasn't the case here. Eliot could easily have distracted the Marshall on his own, or Parker could have gone with him. I know I'm getting a little fussy over small details here, but for me these relatively insignificant, but seemingly overlooked details really take away from the show.
By dropping hints, Parker led Erickson to believe her car was an infamous coupe once owned by Mussolini. Erickson, as planned, had to have it. However, instead of accessing his secret account, he used $150,000 in cash that he had made over ten months at the bookstore where he'd charge people five bucks a pop to use the Wi-Fi. I mean, I know people like Wi-Fi, but can you seriously make $15,000 a month at that? Are 300 people coming through that bookstore each month to buy Wi-Fi? That's one high-traffic bookstore. Another minor detail, but you see how they're adding up.
To make Erickson pay more, Hardison stepped in and pretended to be a rival bidder. He claimed to be an artist who wanted to take the car apart for a sculpture. Outraged, Erickson agreed to pay $750,000. But when he called his bank to make the transaction, he did it in a way so that the eavesdropping Hardison could only get the passwords and not the name of the bank, itself. All was not lost: Erickson did hire Nate's fake company to transport the car.
Everything was set for Nate to meet Erickson in a warehouse when everything started to fall apart. While watching Sophie and Eliot dig a grave, the Marshall got an alert that Erickson had just withdrawn the $750,000. She assumed this meant the grave was for her, not Erickson. So she called the Portland police and ran off.
She turned up at the warehouse, gun in hand, accusing Erickson of hiring assassins to kill her. She had agreed to get Erickson out of the country in a couple of years in exchange for five million dollars and was worried he was going back on the deal. Erickson assured her that wasn't the case, so they came up with a new plan. Kill Nate, fake Erickson's death, and get him out of the country right away. This all could have gone very badly for Nate, had the mob not showed up.
Back when he was researching Parker's story, Erickson called an old contact he knew before entering witness protection. When this contact took the call, he was in the middle of an interrogation by the same mobsters that Erickson was supposed to testify against. So they showed up at the warehouse and opened fire. Then Sophie and Eliot, pursued by police, got to the warehouse too.
So there they were: Mobsters in a gunfight with Eliot in tow. I was so excited! Clearly this was going to be awesome Eliot versus mobsters smack down! He punched someone in the face! Yes! But then he went away and let the police take over.
Seriously, WHAT?! Was Christian Kane's back hurting that day? Was the fight choreographer on vacation? WHY would you not insert an awesome Eliot fight scene there? It just doesn't make any sense.
So Erickson and the Marshall were arrested and Nate talked to the mobster in charge, and somehow got him to agree not to have Erickson killed in prison so that he could stand trial. Nate said it was important because death would be easier for Erickson to handle than having to face his crimes. Um, I thought that was a little shaky—in what universe would a mob boss agree with that logic—but by this point I was too upset at the lack of Eliot-rage to really care.
One other thing really bothered me about this episode, actually: I felt the show skipped over what should have been a very important scene. At one point everyone was talking about what they would do after they all stopped working together and it seemed like there was a conversation here that we didn't get to see. I mean, I can guess that Nate talked to them about whatever this thing is that he wants to build, and maybe the writers are just trying to tease us with snippets of information about Nate's elusive plans, but that seems like a really cheap way to carry an arc through an episode. I really would have liked to see what happened there.
...How many more episodes without a good Eliot smackdown do you think you can take?
...What is Nate going to build?
...Would you watch a spinoff where Eliot leaves to open his own restaurant, only to constantly fight off assassins? (Trick question. OBVIOUSLY.)