Throwback Thursday, a weekly article in which we look back at our favorite TV episodes from over the years.
I am a TV addict. I watch way too much TV but every once in a while a show sticks out among the masses that I never expected to strike me. It can become a new TV obsession for a show that's still airing, an ended gem I catch later, or a show I liked while on but came to miss even more after it ended. Leverage is one of those shows. I loved the show while it was airing but in the years since its cancellation, my love for it has only grown and that has everything to do with three characters: Parker, Eliot, and Hardison. There have been other great TV trios but these are among the best. Parker is a professional thief, Eliot is the enforcer, and Hardison, the computer genius. These three along with Nate, the coordinator, and Sophie, the con artist, play Robin Hood to people who have been unfairly taken advantage of by the most elite people and corporations around. In short, it is a crooks gone good tale that includes the intricate planning of an Ocean's 11 type conning. For all the fun of the con's twists and turns, the show still rests on the characters. At first I planned to cheat a bit and focus on all three characters I love by highlighting their best episodes but in the end I decided to showcase Parker. Parker is not my favorite female character. That distinction goes to Fiona Glenanne from Burn Notice. However Parker has the single best character development I have ever seen. She starts as an antisocial, secretive, awkward, selfish, money-grabbing thief who does not play well with others. At all. She has no awareness of social cues and is often far too blunt for polite society. Over time, as in episodes like The Juror #6 Job, Parker is trained in reading people and getting along in society until she can play a con like Sophie and plan a job that requires intricate teamwork like Nate. Along the way she learns about family, friends, and even love too. Plus, she does it all while still jumping off buildings, using gymnastics to get around lasers, and generally being more awesome than anyone else on the planet. So while I adore Eliot and Hardison too, this Throwback Thursday is all about episode 3.03, The Inside Job. I chose it out of all the other great Parker episodes because it is here that we learn a bit about Parker's past and where she takes a stand for the person she is becoming. It is also here that the others show how much they are willing to risk to keep Parker safe, even if they do grumble about it.
Leverage - 3.03 - The Inside Job - Recap:
At 7:00 am, Parker breaks into the Wakefield Agricultural Corporation and is followed by high tech security guys. Meanwhile Nate makes breakfast and flirts with Sophie. Sophie: "Kiss? I don't remember a kiss. I remember a slap. You're still working off the slap." Ha! They are interrupted by a phone call from a mysterious older gentleman. Nate: "This had better be good." He warns Nate that Parker is up against a Steranko security system, the best available, as proven by how much running Parker has to do just to keep 10 steps ahead of security. Nate calls an emergency meeting at Parker's place. Well one of them. She has 6 that he knows about. Luckily Sophie knows Parker well enough to guess the code and in they go. Let's just say Parker isn't a believer in furniture, or decorations, or well, anything home. Instead it's a work space with a bed and all the best tools for the aspiring thief on the move. Hardison and Eliot join momentarily, having gone to the wrong house first. They're a little shaken having being greeted there by a bearded man in a Sailor Moon costume. Hardison, taking in Parker's abode: "Okay, this is a little freaky." Eliot: "Really? This is exactly what I expected." Ha! I agree. Sophie focuses everyone by admiring the precise planning Parker did. It sets up the show handing the reigns over from Nate to Parker in the proposed 6th season, which sadly never happened. It's still not too late to change your mind TNT. Just saying. Sophie: "Wow, this is so well-organized. She's got everything laid out just so. This is as clean as one of your plans." Eliot: "Yeah maybe you're rubbing off on her Nate." Nate disagrees because no way he'd try to beat a Steranko. Hardison: "On her own? Has she lost her mind?" Thankfully Sophie asks for the audience and Eliot is flabbergasted she's never heard of it. Sophie: "I am a grifter. If I'm doing my job right, the mark just (click) turns off the alarm for me." Ha!
End result: Steranko is impenetrable. Hardison needs time to even attempt to conquer it and he has to be in the building when he does. Nate clarifies: "For Parker, can you crack it?" That's a different story. Nate: "So let's go steal a Parker." Ha! The target, Wakefield, is big in the agribusiness department, which reminds me of when they steal the potato in 4.05. That one's still bizarre to me. Hardison spouts all its impressive handlings, but Sophie summarizes, "So it's a grocery store." Bwah! Hardison: "Yeah if Godzilla's a gecko. They do $200 million a year in biotech research and third world infrastructure." Sophie: "Alright so it's a massive grocery store." Eliot joins them with more bad news. Everything's locked up tight except for the lobby. He's not keen on doing a job with no plan, which rubs Hardison the wrong way. "You just want to throw Parker under the bus?" That's not what he said, Hardison. They argue but Nate refocuses their attention on the details. Parker scouted everything from the same building and he surmises that the caller is there too so he wants to go with Eliot to find him. Nate: "Sophie walk Hardison into Wakefield so you can get your hands on the Steranko." Sophie: "That's the plan?" Nate: "It's all I've got." Hmm. Not exactly inspiring, there. Even Hardison gives up protesting in frustration, but Sophie remains positive. They'll save Parker. They just need a way to get in. Hardison thinks thief but Sophie knows this is a grifter's world. Sophie: "Thieves find entrances but grifters, uhn un. We make them." Being a grifter is much more fun too. As the bigwigs freak out with the head of security about the breach, Sophie and Hardison pose as company auditors. Sophie: "We're here to see who gets fired today." That'll get their attention.
Meanwhile on a random rooftop, Eliot and Nate meet up with Archie Leach. Having once worked in Majorca, presumably on opposite sides, Nate declares Archie, "the world's greatest thief." That is high praise indeed considering how many thieves Nate has known. Their reminiscing is rudely cut short by two gun-wielding goons just aching for Eliot to take them down, which he does in record time with an assist by Archie's cane. It's all delightfully Leverage until Archie drops the bomb. He's being held captive while Parker attempts to rescue him by stealing something from the Wakefield Building. When Eliot asks why she would bother, Archie replies, "Because I'm her father." Say what? Are you kidding me? The shock I felt when first hearing that mimicked Eliot's open-mouthed gesticulating. Father?!?! Archie clarifies that he's not Parker's biological father but more like her thief mentor starting 12 years prior when she tried to lift his wallet. Archie: "When I first met her, she was wild, dangerous to herself and others, but she had the gift. I made her, honed her, my perfect thief." He taught her everything she knows, including some spectacular ice cream gymnastics apparently. No wonder she goes through laser beams like a pro. Archie beams at the thought of making her his legacy but Nate takes exception to the fact that he left her as broken as he found her instead of making her one of his family. I understand where he's coming from but Archie has a point too and I smell the faint whiff of hypocrisy floating off Nate. Archie explains that his family, including his grandchildren, have no idea of his former employment. Archie: "You know Parker. You know she wouldn't fit in. She doesn't fit in anywhere." Ouch! Eliot: "Yeah but she was good enough to send into a death trap, huh?" Double ouch! Archie vehemently protests. He only asked Parker to help plan with the blueprints his blackmailer gave him, but she went in without his knowledge to help him save his grandkids.
Dropping her own bombshell, Sophie runs roughshod over the company bigwigs demanding that everyone gather in the boardroom while Hardison sets up shop elsewhere. To distract them, she tells them they are all fired. The only one who doesn't panic is Dr. Hannity who was with the head of security earlier. That makes her suspect #1 in something shady. Chaos resumes though when Sophie says that anyone who can convince her that they are indispensible will be rehired. At the same time, Hardison hooks into a cable to hack the Wakefield system and give Nate the bad news. As long as Parker stays in the building, she's cool. As soon as she tries to escape though, the nets will tighten and there's no way out. Eliot calls it a lobster trap and adds his own bad news. The perimeter is locked down too so he asks Hardison to find an empty office. Now all they need is Parker but they have no clue where she is. Hardison: "Nate, you do realize the entire building's looking for Parker. I mean the actual physical building is looking for her." If they try to use the cameras and sensors to find her, they will lead security right to her too. Nate asks what the play is then. Hardison: "What's my play? Nate, I'm hacking a security system that the Pentagon calls overkill with a laptop I found in the back of my car." Bwah! That's some advanced security. "Look, the honest answer - we can't find Parker. We just have to wait for her to send up a signal and hopefully we get to her first." Parker isn't haven't a very good day either. Crawling through the ventilation shaft she discovers laser trip wires that even her ice cream-eating kid body couldn't fit through. Plan B. Donning a lab coat and stealing a security badge. Luckily she also calls Hardison who tells her the Calvary is there.
Back on the rooftop, Archie and Nate notice the blueprints Archie was given are company originals and Sophie confirms Hannity as a main suspect. Short Google trip later and Hardison exposits that she's the head of biotech. And that's the kicker. An inside job means no loose ends. Archie: "If they find Parker, they're not going to arrest her. They'll kill her." With stakes even higher, Archie tries to storm the castle but Hardison already interoffice mailed her an ear piece. No need to go in too. As Parker goes live, Archie calls her kiddo to Nate's astonishment and my delight. He then proceeds to scold her until Parker interrupts. "They would have caught you, Archie. They would have hurt you or your family, your real family." Ouch! That's a kick to the gut. Parker couldn't let anything happen to him so she went in herself, but couldn't get to the canister Archie is supposed to steal. Nate's knocked for a loop again when Parker calls Archie, "Sir," and actually listens to his orders without question. Not only do we get delicious back story on the world's most mysterious character, but we see a different side of her as she teams up with her mentor. Since Parker is one of my favorite female characters of all time, it's intriguing. Archie basically takes over the con from Nate while Parker gets stopped by an office sexting nerd lothario and swept away to a goodbye party. I think she'd rather be trawling the ventilation shaft again. Good thing Hardison found the CEO's office empty and devoid of all cameras, putting Eliot on point. Eliot: "Wait a second. You want me to climb a 40-story building in broad daylight." Nate: "Yes, and I want you to do it now. We're up against the clock." No pressure or anything. Thankfully the window washers pull up. Game on.
Still using his Google-fu, Hardison figures out that Hannity's department lost $60 million last year on a super wheat project, which should make her ripe for the cutting block. Nate tells Sophie to let everyone else go but to push Hannity over her limits. Hannity of course all but villain monologues her evil scheme to release a blight on the country's wheat supply, causing worldwide famine. Then she'll swoop down with her resilient super wheat and the whole world will pay. Hannity: "Whoever comes up with a solution…" Sophie: "Will save lives." Hannity: "Will increase market share." Yep, she's a greedy capitalist specializing in crazy. Archie thinks Nate's lost it too. He plans to get the blight while Archie focuses on getting Parker to safety. See how the tables have turned. Archie: "You've got 3 people trapped in there. An outside man who can't get in. So what now?" Nate doesn't have an actual plan but he does have a mission. Archie: "While you're dreaming up your comic book fantasies, Parker's in there waiting for a bullet in the head." Nate: "Yeah, you put her in there." Archie: "And I'm gonna get her out." He orders Parker to run straight out the front door, promising to get her home. Nate counters the order and tells her to get to Eliot at the CEO's window. Which she does and then proceeds to NOT follow the exit strategy. Eliot: "This is no time for crazy, alright. We've got to get the hell out of here." But Parker's adamant. Unless she steals the blight, Hannity wins and Parker's not about to let that happen. Archie: "We do not get involved. We get out." Parker protests. Archie: "This is not what we do." Parker: "No, this is not what you do. Okay, Hannity's bad. She's gonna hurt people, a lot of people. You taught me a lot of things Archie, but this is what we do." It's a powerful moment as Parker, the last to fully get on board with teamwork, nails their mission. In one revelation, she encompasses the entire show and I have never loved this character more.
Sophie agrees. Hardison is more pragmatic. "Well somebody better decide something because Steranko is whooping my a**." Nate remains silent, I think astounded by Parker's declaration, but Archie goes mental. He wants his kid out and I don't blame him. Trouble is Parker isn't a little girl anymore and she's competent at her job. Nate questions her first pass at the vault but Parker says she's learned from her mistakes and besides, she has the team with her this time. Nate agrees and says it's her show. Eliot meanwhile is fit to be tied, hanging outside a 40-story building with a crowbar in his hand. He really does have the best facial expressions of the night. Archie is not so easily swayed though. "What you do…you've killed her. That's what you've bloody done. You've killed her." His anguish is palpable and I totally feel sorry for him. He may have kept her separate and she may not feel like she's his real kid, but she is definitely a daughter to him. Plus it looks like he's right because not 15 seconds into the new mission, Parker encounters a security guard who pulls a gun on her. Not surprisingly, Eliot's there to take him out. Perhaps the real difference is that Archie never had a team willing to go the distance for him. She has a new family here. One in which she not only belongs, but she's crucial. Parker and Eliot head to the vault with help on high from Hardison. As they bicker about who has the worst job, Eliot takes out more guards and Hardison tries to keep the system from locking him out. Hardison: "Oh look, I am not trying to rush y'all but y'all need to put some pep in your step." Bwah! Parker zip lines down to the biotech level while Eliot grabs a scanner and takes the stairs. Time's up as Hardison and Sophie get out.
Just when they're about to reach the biotech lab, Parker's sexter nerd shows up again. Unluckily for him, Eliot grabs him by the throat until Parker tells him to let go. She does breaks Nerd's heart though when she claims Eliot as her boyfriend. As Parker and Eliot run for the door, she asks him what sexting is. Eliot: "I'm not having this conversation with you, Parker." Smart man. Very smart man. They get in the vault by using the retinal scanner and Parker beats the code, holding the blight and beaming over her success to Eliot who is less impressed but super snarky. Eliot: "That's great. You’re awesome. Let's go!" BWAAAAHHHH!!!! I totally want a gif of that. Sadly once the canister is removed the Steranko goes to level four as fire engines and news reporters surround the building. Okay. I see where this is headed. Sadly Archie does not as he pulls a gun on Nate. (I've felt that way many times too, Archie.) Archie: "She was perfect. You ruined her. If you'd left her alone…" Nate: "I didn't put her in there, Leach." So you keep saying but it's not like you haven't put her in harm's way plenty of other times, Nate. Stop acting so innocent. Archie: "She stayed up there to service you and your pathetic Robin Hood fantasy. I made her unique. What is she now?" And now you've crossed the line. Parker is Parker, pure and simple, and Parker is awesome! Nate: "I have no idea what Parker is. I doubt she knows." Good point. He adds that both of them would die to protect her and that I do believe. They are both her family. Nate tells Archie to either shoot him or let him get Parker out. Archie: "You're going in after her?" Nate: "Always was Leach. Always was." Yeah, I believe that too. That's why I love Leverage. They don't leave a man behind, not family.
In classic Leverage style, the ending twists. Hannity and Muscle see Parker and Eliot put on hazmat suits and take the elevator. They realize it's their one shot to get the blight and kill the witnesses so they meet the elevator at the bottom. Gun in hand they take the now 4 people in the elevator to an empty floor where Archie tries to renegotiate their deal and Hannity full out villain monologues. She couldn't smirk harder nor be more gleeful about killing everyone, which of course is the cue for the reporter and camera crew to take off their hazmat suits and tell Hannity they are on live TV. Can't get a more of public confession than that. Nate recaps the plan for Hardison to fake a toxin spill while he got the reporter into gear with talk of a Pulitzer, leaving our brilliant team to hitch a ride down via the window washer while enjoying Hannity's downfall. It's a thoroughly satisfying conclusion to the con and yet not to the story, because this is really about Parker and her relationships more than the job. Particularly the two men in her life, Archie and Nate. As Archie goes to take his leave, he backhand compliments Nate on a job well done while Nate looks down his nose at Archie. "No love lost here, huh?" That's an understatement. Still there is plenty of love between Parker and Archie. "You have a top flight crew." Parker: "They're good, a little undisciplined." Archie: "Well you can work with that." Ha! I bet they say the same about her. Archie tells Parker that he wishes he had taken her home to the rest of his family all those years ago but she cuts him off with an uncharacteristic display of affection. He's startled by the hug but I'm too busy sniffling at the awww of it. Parker: "It's okay. I wouldn't have fit in with the real family." Ouch! Archie: "You didn't need it anyhow. You went out and made your own." Awww, that she did. She also took off with his wallet, but he already knew that. As Parker walks away , Nate asks if she's okay. "What did he talk to you about?" Parker: "Oh you know, thief stuff."
And thus ends one of my favorite episodes of Leverage. I adore how the spotlight is on Parker, who still remains the most mysterious of them all. From seeing her home to learning about her past with Archie, we get more background on Parker in one episode than in 3 seasons. I love the action and the mouse trap feel and there are plenty of Leverage twists. It's fun and claustrophobic, giving each cast member their moment to shine. Still the success of the episode lies in Parker's growth as a character for me. It's in the way she takes charge of who she wants to be in the midst of conflicting advice. It's in how she acknowledges that together they work better than doing it by herself. It's in the hug she gives Archie at the end, although she is not prone to physical interaction. I often wish we had seen more of Archie because he brought out a different side of Parker and opened her up as a character even more. Mostly though I miss this show. Often times when one show ends for me, I miss it but another show comes along and fills that void. We're almost at three years since Leverage was cancelled and I still haven't found a Leverage-shaped show to satisfy that craving. It was smart but it didn't take itself seriously. It was fun but it had a lot of heart too. Mostly it showed how a group of loners with different skills and approaches could grow to be a strong family that always had each other's backs and never gave up on each other. They bickered and made up like a real family and I wish we could taste a bit more of that awesomeness. I will never give up on a Leverage spin-off with Parker, Eliot, and Hardison. I will never give up on a Leverage TV movie. These characters captured my imagination and captivated my heart, and I am grateful for the 77 episodes I had with them.
You can find all 5 seasons of Leverage on Netflix.
Screencaps by Pinterest
, Beth Riesgraf Online
, and Midnight Road