Tonight airs a new episode of Leverage, the caper mystery series, on TNT at 10 PM Eastern/Pacific. It’s called “The Bottle Job”, in which Timothy Hutton’s character Nate returns to his old Boston neighborhood’s Irish pub on the occasion of the owner’s wake. Unfortunately, his daughter and sole heir has just been threatened by a local loan shark who demands $15,000 or ownership of the bar.
Turns out that Nate, a recovering alcoholic, lives over the pub and feels rather protective of both it and the daughter, who is “like a niece” to him. It’s a bit predictable — who didn’t expect an episode about the bar and its substitute family once the team started meeting clients there? — but the point of this show is how well they handle classic schemes and cons, especially once they toss in a twist or two. The bad guy is so irredeemably bad, propositioning the girl at her father’s memorial, that you’re rooting for his downfall as soon as you see him. At least he has a sense of humor about his job, so it’s not horrible to watch him.
Alan Smyth as a loan shark and Jeri Ryan as bait
I tend not to like Jeri Ryan’s character very much, preferring Gina Bellman’s softer grifter, but I loved her introductory scene this episode. Nate has called her down to the bar to find more information on the bad guy. He points him out to her as she takes off her coat and exchanges a couple of wisecracks. To prepare, she pulls up her short skirt, raising the hemline, tugs down her V-neck top, shakes out her hair, slugs a drink, and says, “I’m Trish, and I’m lonely.” It’s such an economic creation of a character, all the aspects she needs transformed in a few quick motions.
The main challenge for the team is that the shark is leaving that night and so they have an hour and a half to save the bar. First problem, find enough cash to start up the classic Wire con — that’s the one you saw in The Sting, about betting on sports based on knowing the outcomes ahead of time. (Only now, technology makes it much simpler.) The setup allows Parker (Beth Riesgraf), Hardison (Aldis Hodge), and Eliot (Christian Kane) to work together on the behind-the-scenes prep. I love seeing them interact; their characters play off each other well, and this episode is full of little moments among them that are quite entertaining.
Parker, Hardison, Nate, and Eliot
There’s also a bit of drama, as running a con in a bar is a bad idea for Nate, since it will be obvious if he’s not drinking. But it’s the comedy that keeps me coming back — Aldis Hodge in particular gets a great funny scene when he’s called upon to improvise a snow storm. When I first heard about it, I wasn’t as interested in this setup as I was in the previous episode, but it turned out to be even more entertaining, especially the final double-cross. Unexpected, but perfectly plausible.