Leverage: “The Two-Horse Job”

16 December 2008
by R.A. Porter


Sophie: I don’t know what comes of chasing the past, Eliot.
Eliot: Well Sophie, sweetie, I don’t think you and Nate get to serve me that particular meal.

If I had to highlight one concern I have about the legs on Leverage, it would be on display in tonight’s episode. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a finely crafted hour of television with some twisty goodness, but its entire premise is that someone on the team has to help someone from his past. I don’t want to spend every week learning about Eliot’s lost love or Hardison’s old buddies in the AV club, or Parker’s…whatever psychiatric nurse she really liked in her youth. Instead I want strangers tracking down Leverage Consulting & Associates – preferably talking to Nate while he wears kooky disguises – and asking for help.

Eliot’s got history with Willy and Aimee Martin, a history of a future derailed. He was engaged to be engaged to Aimee, guest star Jaime Ray Newman (Heroes, Veronica Mars,) but hit the road and never returned. Eliot’s chosen profession doesn’t lend itself to domesticated bliss, and he apparently spent some time undergoing “enhanced coercive interrogation techniques” when he should have been back home tending his relationship. Ain’t that always the way? You meet a girl, give her a promise ring, and then get captured and beaten over a monkey.

It’s not just Eliot’s past come back to haunt him. Nate and the team come up against Jim Sterling, played by genre fave Mark Sheppard (Serenity, The Middleman).1 Sterling’s got a hardon for Nate and gets in the way from the act one break. Sure the team’s conned the bad guy and gotten Baltimore back for Willy, but Sterling’s not going to let that stand. He threatens to pin the stable fire on Willy just to spite Nate. Damn you, Badger!

While Sterling is the big bad, the real villain of the episode is Alan Foss, played to smarmy perfection by Rick Hoffman. And you can’t get much more villainous than Foss. I mean, the guy’s a hedge fund manager! He might as well have announced he kicks puppies and juggles kittens. We know he started the fire. No punishment could be severe enough, but taking him for $12M and setting him up for fraud is better than nothing.

The fixed poker game was really too easy, so when Sterling shows up, the team needs to try a more elaborate con. What better con to play with horses – animals with family trees so carefully plotted they have chips in their necks2 with identification information that can be checked in a central database – than the Lost Heir. Using yet another horse to play the role of their scion of a Chinese horse dynasty, the team convinces Foss that he has the perfect horse in his reach. Typical of a Wall Street guy to make a snap decision based on hype and limited information. Also typical to trust the same people who were sitting around the poker table in the beginning. His arrogance and naivety really knows no bounds.

When it all finally goes south, Sterling doesn’t say a word. IYS doesn’t have to pay out the policy and that’s all that matters in the short-term. Long-term, he’ll be watching Nate.

Some other thoughts:

  • I adored Parker’s horse-clown flashback. Seriously messed up, and seriously funny that she would think that was a real horse, somehow.
  • Hardison: “Okay, hi, yes. Everybody? Y’all want to take over the briefings? I go to a lot of trouble to make these things interesting. Have a little something visual for the visual learners, and the auditory learners.”
  • I loved the way both Sterling and the team use the Chinese tourists to further their games. Very clever the way everyone got what they wanted out of that. Except Foss, of course.
  • In the penultimate scene, when Eliot and Aimee say their goodbyes, that’s Christian Kane singing his own song “More Than I Deserve”. Fans of Angel will already know Kane’s got an excellent voice.

What did everyone else think?

R.A. Porter is an aspiring television writer who currently toils away in the software mines. He can be found at Sketch War, Tumblr, and stalked on Twitter.
  1. Duh. Of course I could put BSG there. But I wanted to give a shoutout to my beloved Middleman. []
  2. I didn’t know this, but John Rogers is a research junkie; I’m sure it’s true. []

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posted by R.A. Porter in → Reviews

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