"It was the episode where they convinced the guy there was a nuclear war," Downey said, last year before we even started.
"They let him see the world through a periscope. I'm not sure we can do the periscope gag."
And so, we scaled down the End of the World to something a little more manageable. Add a dash of Derren Brown subliminally programming a mall full of people, add some stories of hypnosis raising burn blisters and affinity fraud ... and we had our classic Mission Impossible episode. I mean, it's not the classic "secret Third Reich sub with the weird glass tube in the middle, built on a set of gimbals in a warehouse" gambit, but it ain't bad.
I have to admit, this production had one of the odder moments in my career. I sat next to Rod Hardy, the director, as he auditioned actors for the Security Guard. "Pardon me," he would say, with painful courtesy, "but would you mind taking your shirt off?"
A half-dozen skinny guys, one after another, stripping for their shower scene. Not the shower scene auditions I was told about when I got into this Hollywood producer scam.
Double character beats in this one. The Nate one is a followup of his comment in "The 12 Step Job" that maybe he was more of a bastard sober. A sober Nate Ford is still obsessive, brilliant, and righteous -- and now forced to live with himself 24/7. "We all trade one addiction for another," Nate said in the season opener. And he's not exactly well-adjusted enough to make the most ... therapeutically sound choices when it comes to his new life choices. (I refuse to say "recovery", by the way)
The Eliot story isn't meant to imply anything about his backstory. Or, if it does, I would caution you into laying the most literal interpretation onto the story. That character's seen a lot of nasty things in his life, and certain things tweak him more strongly than others. But it's a fair bit more complicated than the straight ahead read ...
I do have to admit, the first time we saw the cut, with the nice ending, as everyone went "Awwww", I turned to Dean and said "Wow, Eliot is plainly going to go in there and kill that dude."
But that's probably just me.
Right, what's in the mailbag?
@MichaelClear: What was the deal with "Catwoman"?
Oh, you kids.
@Alan Scott: Man, I'm from the place where this episode was set, and it's not really like that at all.
It absolutely is. You're just too blind to see it.
@ChrisAyers: Why would Hardison make the code for "all's well" odd numbered Treks & bad stuff even numbered Treks? Seems counterintuitive.
His logic was that all the odd-numbered ones should be ignored, therefore a warning should be ones you pay attention to. Also, Wrath o'Khan joke.
@briddle: Did I miss something? Why was Hardison snagging the marshal's keys in the first place?
He was going to try to get some background on them to be able to manipulate them easier. You didn't miss anything.
@Nicole: It seemed like there were a few geeky nods at the beginning of the episode... I particularly liked Parker putting the drops of drugs down a thread. Were you calling on something you pulled from actual research, or was that a nod toward Gross Point Blank?
I think both we and Grosse Point Blanke were homaging You Only Live Twice.
@Caitlin: Anyway, I was wondering if we are going to get more scenes of Eliot being the protector of kids. I loved the scene of him with Randy in the hospital, I thought it was absolutely adorable! Eliot is a teddy bear deep down! And...just how sadistic is Nate going to get this season and will Sophie continue to find it attractive?
Eliot as a teddy bear? No. But Chris is both great with kids, and works well with kid actors (kudos to our guest star for this week, he was really fantastic). And kids basically treat Chris like Batman.
@Becky: Do you guys decide a theme for picking the various aliases used in an episode? I have this image in my head of you putting suggestions in a hat and pulling one out. 'And this week we'll be using.... science fiction authors!'
The aliases -- Hardison's creations -- always follow the theme of the con. The one exception is in Ep #207, where they fit the characters that the, um, characters have chosen to play.
@NG: the aliases of the police, Greg Michaels and Ted Crichton. A deliberate nod to Michael Crichton and The Andromeda Strain?
Such as that. Thanks, NG.
@Jesse Savage: Are there any plans for Leverage to air in Canada? Pretty please? Or are we just going to have to rely on DVDs?
Seeing as Canadian television seems to be in freefall, I'm thinking it will be DVD's for now. Not a lot of motivation to pay foreign license fees. So, unless someone wants to start harassing The Movie Channel ...
@marga: nate mentioned the team members playing multiple parts this scam... might we see a story where there simply aren't enough of them to efficiently pull it off? or conversely, could there be a scam that doesn't require everyone and maybe someone feels left out?
They tend to fit the scam to their numbers. Between Nate and Sophie they know just about every variation of every scam, and they can always dial up or down. Considering the degree of difficulty on their jobs, I doubt they'll have a free hand any time soon.
@Anonymous: Miss the conference room scenes and the development of the con that happens there. Will we see a return of this part of the team's process?
As of #204, and for the rest of the Season. Just a weird confluence of episodes up front. Hardison didn't put all that neat stuff in Nate's apartment for no reason.
@jarodrussel: ... In this episode, [Parker] spends a lot of the time having Nate explain how this con worked. Is Parker going to become something of a sponge, soaking up tricks and skills from the rest of the team, expanding her skills out from Thief to Mastermind?
Parker has a Destiny. This is all part of the Path.
@BardicLady: does Parker drink alcohol? Also, how did Madoff-redux get a taser through security and the possibility of an MRI?
a.) Yes, but oddly it doesn't seem to affect her. b.) It came off the naked Security Guard's belt.
@CallieMac: Why did Parker rattle the duct - was it to keep him from picking up the drink? Also, what was up with the look between Hardison and Eliot when Parker said nurses don't wear skirts and white hose anymore?
a.) Yes. b.) I am not going to explain why men would be disappointed Parker would not wind up wearing the white nurse's uniform.
@I must confess to finding the subplot with Eliot and the kid to be pointless, distracting, unrealistic (the U.S. Marshal Service can do precisely nothing about an abused child), and cliched up the kazoo. This show is usually better than that.
Ahhh, Keith my friend, the Marshall is, as are most law enforcement officials, a mandated reporter. But more importantly, he was an authority figure outside the local law enforcement system, the system Randy feared would not respond to his complaints. He was more there for emotional support, to get the boy to Social Services, and to basically scare the Dad with a Bigger Badge to keep him from interfering.
It's not hard to find stories of abuse victims who did not report their abusers because of connections with local law enforcement. Also, see DaveMB in the Comments of the last post for some good references.
@Confessions of a Con Medic: Who would come out on top in a war of wits between the Leverage crew vs Michael Westin? (Burn notice)
Dead tie. The problem is, Michael doesn't really have an exploitable weakness for the con hook to set. Except his brother. Who we would just kill. As a favor.
@Micah: What happens when they realize that the nurse being zapped on the security footage doesn't actually work at the hospital, or is that another one of those handwavy go-with-it-we-got-the-bad-guy things?
Depends how badly the local law enforcement wants to clean up the loose ends on the escape and recapture of a con man who stripped the local community bare.
@Brad: Did anyone else keep thinking of the Silent Hill games in a lot of the eighth-floor sequences? Was that deliberate, or just an echo? And was there any particular reason we never saw our wronged Armenian fellow again after the first three minutes? Most episodes would at least have him getting the money, if the past is a good guide. Or was that deliberately underlining Nate's increasing emotional distance?
a.) I think that's just a sign of the universal creepinesss of abandoned hospitals b.) Cut for time, although I like the "Nate's increasing emotional distance" bit enough, I'll hereby make it canon.
@Save-vs-DM: Are you guys using digital effects to change words on buildings and stuff?
Indeed we are. One of the most common jobs of our FX department now, as Portland's cooperation with the production allows us to be outside on location much more often than in LA.
@HowieC: My question is simple - who is the better thief: Parker or John Rogers? The drug down the filiment was a direct swipe from James Bond (You Only Live Twice). The convincing the mark that he has a fatal disease in order to give up the $ - vintage Mission Impossible
Ho-mage. The word we use is ho-mage.
@Improper Bostonian: We don't speak "that" nasally and we definitely don't sound like Cliff Claven on Cheers. Hell, give me a call and you'll hear what we really sound like.
All our effort went into duplicating the Rev-eah Claw. The hair did all the work.
@Alexandra: My question for this week: When the staff breaks episodes, how much about the traits of our once-off characters gets decided in the writers room? Do y'all just say, "the mark is a hedge fund manager," and send the writer off to make up everything else about him?
We break those bad guys pretty thoroughly in the writers room, as their flaws are our paths of attack. The Evil Speech of Evil came about specifically because we spend so much time trying to come up with their perfectly justified worldview. You don't really understand an antagonist until you understand why he's a protagonist in his own version of the world.
SueN: Say, any chance in future y'all could go after an oil company? 'Cause hubby's on his way now to a job fair since those bastards laid off every oil man in our area just to show the administration they're not going down without a fight.
Hmm, we don't have an oil company on the list. Hmmmmmmm ...
@Ann: know you have been saying that Nathan is not s nice guy. But were not some of his issues resolved last season. I see not nice, but angry and bitter?? When he quit the booze did he lose his heart too?
He lost his heart when his son died. Right now, he hasn't quite figured out what's supposed to go in that hole. Or, rather, that Nate Ford is dead. Who's walking around in that body, and is Nate even self-aware enough to understand that question?
@Monika: [Eliot]'s not turning into a soft cotton ball in the course of three or four episodes, right? We'll see more banter and snark and bad mood?
The man is never funnier than when he's annoyed. No worries. (Although I'm not sure I'd say "About to throw a guy over a railing" qualifies as 'soft'.)
@Kerri: How old is Parker supposed to be?
Mid-twenties, Hardison's age.
@Susanne: Will there ever be any gay in Leverage? Besides that small spur of the moment thing in The 12 Step Job we haven't seen anything. Will there be a gay client or crook? Or possibly one of the team playing a gay part for a con? Cause I guess it's too late to have one of them come out as gay for real unfortunately...
You know, we've developed a couple gay characters, but they happened to be in episodes that never hit the air (we throw out about three or four storylines a year on the way to shooting). We'll get there. And, of course, there's the backstory on Sophie and Jeri Ryan's charac --
@nobodez: Oh, and WTF was up with the car the mark stole near the end? Who puts their keys above the visor?
That was the assassin's car. Eliot planted it in the bad guy's path. Clarifying flashback cut for time.
@Rob: how the hell does an aggrieved victim get a pistol into a courtroom these days?
Metal detectors weren't maintained-- actually a plot point at one time, to help tip why Eddie would be sure his money would be safe in the courthouse. It was in such bad shape, he knew the odds of maintenance exposing his booty would be low. Cut for time.
@CindyD: My questions is didn't Chris [Downey] used to actually practice law before becoming the fabulous Leverage writer he is today? ;-)
Hence the mens rea run, yes. He actually defended our villains. He also runs our stories by his friends still in NYC law, a habit that gave us a great moment last year when one of his US prosecutor friends said, essentially, "Holy shit. That would work ..."
@Shelley: My question: Do you know how you're going to work around Gina's pregnancy? I don't see her hiding behind folders and other props (though she was hugging that pillow last week, hmmm....) Would you actually use the pregnancy as part of a con?
We are not having a pregnant woman run away from explosions. No, we have a plan ...
@Terri: Do the actors ever ad-lib during filming? Sometimes the bickering between the characters (particularly Eliot and Hardison with the "cowboy with self esteem issues") makes it seem like some of the stuff is unscripted. So is ad-libbing allowed and if it is, how much freedom are the actors given?
The actors are quite scrupulous about giving us the scripted material, particularly because the show is so plot-heavy. That said, there's a lot of improv-ing, and we use quite a bit of it. That particular line was written, if I remember correctly.
@Rahyne: What is Sterling's position/title now in IYS? And now a comment - I am hoping fervently that Sterling doesn't actually become a bad guy. Keep him on the side of the law and the team's nemesis.
He has a VP title, but he's essentially head of all investigative services worldwide (Nate's old job), a job he is very hands-on with. And Sterling is never, ever a bad guy. He's not above using bad guys ...
@sjrSpike:Totally dating myself -- Anyone else remember 'Tales of the Gold Monkey'?
No. And that has nothing to do with Eliot's stolen monkey. At all. Ahem.
@ThomasD: My wife, who is a neuroscientist, usually winces whenever there's brain science on a fiction television show. However, she didn't seem to think that Nate's discussion of doing a end run around the executive portion of the brain was too bad especially considering that his character isn't really a doctor. She said it was "an interesting hypothesis" ... Good on you for getting the amygdala right.
And we only had to dissect three interns to master the concept ...
Good questions, all. Thanks for the feedback, and I look forward to your thoughts on #204. 'til then, sleep tight.