Episode Title: “The First Contact Job”
Writer: Aaron Denius Garcia
Director: Jonathan Frakes
The inventor of a hybrid airplane engine hires the Leverage team after an entrepreneur named James Kanack stole his idea and ruined his reputation. He tells Sophie (Gina Bellman) and Nate (Timothy Hutton) that Kanack funded his research and agreed to share the credit with him, but then cut him out in the end.
Hardison (Aldis Hodge) and Parker (Beth Riesgraf) make their way inside Kanack;s headquarters in hopes of recovering the client's watermarked files. Hardison tells Nate that the files have been scrubbed clean, however he also finds hours of audio recordings of what sounds like static. Eliot (Christian Kane) says the static is actually a military satellite. Nate realizes that Kanack is monitoring the stars in hopes of finding proof of extraterrestrial life.
Nate comes up with a plan to make Kanack think he's made contact. Eliot goes to an open field with a transmitter and sends a message for Kanack to pick up. He hears the signal but learns that he's not the only one. He sends his security team to pick up Eliot, posing as a country bumpkin who happens to be an expert on satellites and also heard the signal.
Back in his lab, Kanack demands Eliot help him with the signal. In exchange, he'll share the credit with him if they make first contact. Meanwhile, Hardison and Parker arrive at Kanack's headquarters posing as federal agents. They tell Kanack the government wants to look at his data on the signals, but he demands they return with a warrant.
Eliot tells Kanack he'll need a codebreaker to decipher the message in the signal. He suggests Sophie, posing as a college professor. She tells Kanuck the message is actually a mathematical sequence the aliens are looking for him to complete. In order to do so, Eliot says he'll need a satellite of his own. Kanuck meets with Nate, posing as a satellite dealer. Nate agrees to let Kanuck piggyback off his bosses satellite for a million dollars.
Nate gives the money from Kanuck to the client but he refuses, as it's his reputation he wants back. Nate decides that making Kanack insane is the only way to fix things. Sophie decodes the message for Kanack, who in turn to decides to blow off his meeting Braddock Aeronautics, the company he's selling the hybrid engine to, and call a press conference to announce the first contact with extraterrestrial life.
Eliot attempts to leave, but Kanack's security tries to stop him. He fights them off and has Parker – who has returned with Hardison – help him hide the unconscious guards. He takes their shoes and leaves them out, making it look the men just disappeared. Eliot then runs into Kanack and tells him the aliens probed him. Hardison causes the phones and monitors to go haywire, frightening Kanack. Sophie bangs on the glass from outside when a green light overtakes her and she seems to disappear.
Scared of being abducted, Kanack stays in his lab all night. The next day, he's about to tell the press about his discovery when he sees Eliot, who he though died the night before. Nate and Sophie show up as well, confusing him even more. Kanack goes to play a recording of the signal but instead it's just music on the CD. As he becomes more hysterical, the reporters leave. Meanwhile, the client shows reps from Braddock Aeronautics his sketches of the engine and they head off to discuss them. Afterwards, he thanks Sophie and Nate for saving his reputation.
“The First Contact Job” felt much like the previous two episodes of 'Leverage, this season. Another cute con to take down an egomaniacal rich guy.
While Parker and boyfriend, Hardison's version of Men in Black, won't put Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones out a job anytime soon, Nate's role as satellite dealer with the arrogance and sleaze factor of a used car salesman was great. And then there was Eliot as the backwoods sat-com expert and Sophie as the easily excitable academic code breaker. This team has "fake it till you make it" down to a science.
While the roleplaying and psychological games on “Leverage” are fun to watch, the team's reliance on deus ex machina type devices like Hardison's "Marvin" gadget makes the storytelling feel a bit lazy. Of course technology is a big part of the team's ability to pull off the kinds of jobs they do but the human component is much more interesting.
On that end, this episode gave us no new information on Nate and Hardison's little chat at the end of the season premiere. We did see Hardison and Parker bond some more, which will only make Hardison's side deal with Nate that much more troubling. Only wish we knew what exactly what they have cooking.
“The First Contact Job” is the funniest episode of the season so far, thanks largely to Nate and Eliot's roles in the con. What “Leverage” sometimes lacks in clever plotting it makes up for with its sense of humor. Except for the singing in the van. Even Eliot and Hardison can't pull that off.