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Leverage: “The Radio Job”

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This is the episode I've been dreading since last summer, the one where Latimer, the mystery man (played by Leon Rippy) who's been making money betting against the companies that Nate has had in his trigger sights, finally makes his move. Latimer must be the easiest gig that Leon Rippy has ever had; once every so often, he puts on a suit, submits to a professional groomer, and then reports to the set, so he can be avuncular for a couple of minutes while we, the viewers, are made to understand that he is nursing a secret agenda that will rain destruction down on Nate and any of his improbable mission force who are fool enough to back his play. For long-term Leverage fans, the suspense has been terrific: just how godawful is this going to be, when Latimer pulls the trigger and we're put in a position of being asked to worry about our boy Nate? It's not as if any of us want to tune in and spend an hour biting our fingernails to the quick on behalf of Timothy Hutton.


This is in no way meant as a slam against Timothy Hutton, a man for whom I would walk into enemy gunfire. It's just that, when I collapse in front of the set at the end of a long weekend, exhausted from dodging creditors and another failed attempt to make the cat understand the difference between the litter box and my sock drawer, I want to watch Nate and his crew defy gravity, make their opponents and any representatives of lawful authority look ridiculous, and get away clean, having proven once again that the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the people through who I am living vicariously knows no equals. Apparently that's not enough for them; once in a while, they want me to actually worry about them, too. It's like having someone really good-looking tell you that they want you to respect them for their mind. You can't even look them in the eye.

As it turned out, it was a pretty good episode, except for the unpromising setup and the ending, which went out of its way to deliver on everything I'd been afraid might happen, complete with fireballs, explosions, and Eliot screaming "Nooooooooooo!!" in slow motion. (There was also the revelation, which wasn't really news, that Latimer was just the front man for the real Sinister Presence pulling the strings. Tom Nuttall always did seem like a live-and-let-live kind of guy.) The whole point of the master plan was to flush Nate out and lure him to the United States Patent Office in Alexandria, Virginia, using his gray-haired old grifter dad, Tom Skerritt, for bait. At one point, somebody referred to the senior Ford as "a seventy-year-old man", which was enough to get me to consult Wikipedia to see if Captain Dallas of the Nostromo really is close to being that old. Turns out Skerritt, who looks as if he's aged about forty minutes since Picket Fences,  turned 78 last August. Do you ever feel like all the wrong people are the ones turning out the workout videos?

Skerritt's wasn't the only face from another time and place. After Nate had broken into the empty building to rescue his old man, and the other team members had broken in so they could rescue Nate, the bad guy sprung the trap, and suddenly the parking lot was full of police vehicles, including one that I'm pretty sure David Carradine drove in Death Race 2000. The Fed holding the bullhorn was played by Michael Paré, his brown hair lookeing as if it hadn't been so much styled as hastily drawn using a straight-edge ruler. I'm just going to go ahead and date myself here: I remember when Vanity Fair ran an article about all the hot, rising young actors and actresses in Hollywood, in which Stephen Schiff confidently asserted that the one sure thing about movies in the '80s was that it was a cast-iron cinch that the screen star of the decade was going to be Michael Paré. Then Risky Business hit theaters, and it turned out that '80s movie audiences preferred their dark-haired pretty boys to have a bit less Brooklyn honk in their voices. One sequel to Eddie and the Cruisers (and two to BloodRayne) later, Paré seems to be enjoying a modest comeback, if you can call a couple of scenes in The Lincoln Lawyer (fun movie, not prominently featured on any top ten lists that I've seen, but well worth a rental) and being third-billed on the guest cast list of an episode of Leverage a comeback. He looks quite fit, and showed an unexpected flair for self-parody when he brandished a machine gun and, striking a movie-poster pose, yelled, "My man is not an acceptable loss!" before storming the building. At the very least, he deserves steady employment in films not directed by Uwe Boll.

The "man" he was so eager to protect was Eliot, who had made phone contact with him and was pretending to be a cop in a Die Hard situation; he even managed to toss in a stray "Yippie-ki-yay." What was fun about the episode was watching the crew run around inside the big, unpopulated building, applying themselves to what was basically an Inside Man bank-hostage situation without any pesky hostages to complicate matters. Eliot got to beat up a guy while wrapping him in duct tape, Sophie got to do a fake-pregnant woman routine wearing a prosthetic belly that Hardison had found in what he called "the island of misfit inventions"—it also included a home meat smoker and a butler figurine to go over your Roomba, both of which I'd love to test-market for a couple of weeks on QVC—and Hardison and Parker got to do a sweet running number about the search for "the government's top secret invention vault, where they keep the time machine." (Parker's outfit, with black jacket, was pretty sweet, too. She has never looked more like a Reservoir Dog.)  It was also interesting to learn that the basement of the U. S. Patent Office looks just like Costco, except with fewer old ladies urging you to try free samples of beverages whose color does not exist in nature.


All this was a lot of fun. It only palled a bit towards the end, when everyone remembered that the series likes to turn a leetle bit series towards the end of a season and… well, it looks as if we probably won't be seeing Tom Skerritt again, and the show did such a thorough job of making it look as if he couldn't possibly still be alive, instead of cutting away at the vital moment to provide itself with an out, that if we ever do see him again, the level of viewer outrage should be last-ten-minutes-of-The-Killing ugly. But the real reason I'm not giving this entertaining hour of television an A-minus is that there were too many clips from the previous episode in which Skerritt played Nate's dad. They were tinted blue, like the flashbacks in Damages, but they didn't seem to tie in with what was going on in this episode closely enough to explain their existence, and by the third one, it just seemed that they were there because somebody had figured out that they were an easier way to kill a few minutes than  writing new scenes. Then, to top it off, there were those always-insulting clips to scenes from earlier in this episode, which they seem to think the audience needs to make sense of how the con worked. They were blue-tinted too, and coming after the flashbacks to a year and five months ago, it just looked as if the show was somehow lapping itself.

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