Episode Title: "The Long Way Down Job"
Writers: John Rogers & Joe Hortua
Director: Dean Devlin
Previously on "Leverage":
After spending months tracking the criminal banker Damien Moreau (Goran Visnjic), Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton) and his team found their elusive prey hiding out in San Lorenzo under the protection of the corrupt President, Edwin Ribera (Alastair Duncan). In response, the team entered San Lorenzo and began destabilising Ribera's regime. Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman) even posed as the fiancée of an honest politician and helped guide him to an apparent victory in the Presidential election.
But because the team knew that they couldn't win legitimately with Moreau and Ribera in charge, they faked the public assassination of Sophia and forced the President to resign and hand over Moreau. Once San Lorenzo was back in the hands of its people, Nate and Sophie ended up in bed with each other… with the rest of their team blissfully unaware.
Shortly after the San Lorenzo job, Nate summons his team to Mount Kibari in Alaska, to help a woman named Karen Scott (Haley Talbot) recover the body of her husband Alan from the mountain. She explains that Alan's business partner, John Drexel (Cameron Daddo) was illegally foreclosing on homes and that Alan may have had the evidence on him when he died during an attempt to climb the mountain. Nate and Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane) reunite with Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge) and Parker (Beth Riesgraf). But Nate is clearly avoiding Sophie after their one night stand.
Hoping to beat Drexel to Alan's body, Eliot and Parker begin climbing the mountain before it is officially reopened. Meanwhile, Sophie convinces Drexel that they met in Paris and she begins undermining his deal to sell his company to a foreign firm and escape the blame for the illegal foreclosures. She soon convinces the other investors at the mountain resort that Alan is pitting multiple buyers against each other, which ultimately drives his stock price down. Meanwhile, Parker and Eliot find evidence on the mountain that Drexel has sent a Russian operative ahead of them to find Drexel's body.
Eventually locating the transceiver attached to Alan's body, Eliot and Parker become trapped in an ice chamber with the dead man. They retrieve his notebook with the evidence and his still working cell phone. Parker insists that they bring Alan's body back to his wife, but they are ultimately forced to leave it behind in order to save themselves. Before they leave, Parker and Eliot listen to Alan's last message to his wife on his cell phone. To stall for time, Nate pretends to be attempting a hostile takeover of Drexel's company. He even tells Drexel that he already has the notebook from Alan's body. However, Drexel's Russian operative finds Eliot and Parker before holding her at gunpoint to retrieve and burn the notepad… leaving them with nothing.
Just when it seems that Drexel's plan to sell the company will go through, Hardison plays Alan's last video message to his wife on every screen in the retreat. In the message, Alan (Eric Stoltz) says that Drexel cut his rope while they were climbing together, leading the police to arrest Alan on the spot. Alan also goes on to say farewell to his wife, bringing her to tears in the process.
Back in Boston, Sophia and Nate agree to keep their short affair a secret, but she realizes that he doesn't remember much of what happened. And over dinner with the team, Hardison discovers that their headquarters has been bugged with a high tech listening device; potentially exposing their entire operation. As the team wonders who is responsible, they realize that they have a long list of enemies who would like to take them down. And without a clear idea of who is targeting them or why, their enemy may actually succeed.
"Leverage" is a solidly executed show that's well suited for the summer season. However, it's often only good television when it could be great.
For example, last year's Damien Moreau storyline was poorly advanced during the majority of the season, only to resurface occasionally before the last two episodes of the year. Unfortunately, by the time we finally saw Moreau, he was simply another standard "Leverage" villain. For a season long story arc, it just wasn't that fulfilling.
This season's premiere episode is almost blissfully free of any overarching story elements until the closing moments. But even the revelation that the team's headquarters has been bugged doesn't come off very strongly. Hardison's announcement was almost nonchalant and at most, the team seemed only slightly worried about the development. If the team isn't convincingly afraid of this threat then why should the audience care?
I'd actually love to see the Leverage team finally go up against a foe that they can't defeat with their usual tricks. Someone who has a personal grudge against them and the means to finally take them down. Maybe that's what we'll see here. But until the show (and by extension, the characters) take the threat seriously, then there's no way that the viewers will.
But as an hour of escapism television, this episode managed to be entertaining while putting the team in an unfamiliar location. "Leverage" co-creator, John Rogers often writes some of the best episodes of this series. And this time, he and Joe Hortua came up with a scenario that seemed different than the usual cons on this show. Except for Sophie's con. We've seen that one multiple times before. However, the mountain climbing scenes were beautifully filmed and this was a nice change up from all of the skyscrapers and buildings that the team normally breaks into.
Parker and Eliot also got some strong character moments in the ice cave with Alan's body. I didn't expect Parker to be so emotional about retrieving Alan's body, but it makes more sense if to a certain extent, her feelings aren't real. I think that she wants to be a better person than she currently is and she may really be feeling empathy for other people now. But I get the impression that she's acting this way because she believes that's how she's supposed to act and feel. It's a performance, whether Parker realizes it or not. To paraphrase an old saying, "objects in the mirror may be less human than they appear."
Eric Stoltz actually gave the episode its strongest material in the form of Alan's goodbye to his wife. It surprised me because he wasn't nearly as convincing on "Caprica" as he was in that short scene here. This was a nice reminder that he can really act.
I wasn't as sold on the Nate and Sophie plotline. I don't mind that they got together in last season's finale. But the awkwardness between them is already played out after a single episode. I'd rather they had never hooked up if it meant we could avoid an entire season of the same Nate and Sophie story beats over and over again. The "Leverage" writers should either get them together or keep them apart. The middle ground is uncomfortably close to sitcom territory.
I've just realized that "Leverage" is like the "Law & Order" of adventure series. Everything wraps up in about an hour and you almost always know what you're going to get from an episode. And if that's all you want, then the series usually delivers as it did here.
Crave Online Rating: 7 out of 10..