This is possibly the most straight-ahead episode development we've ever had. We knew that at some point we wanted to do an episode that took advantage of Kane's singing abilities. We also knew we weren't going to do it until we had a decent con to wrap around it. I thought Kane (and Veach in writing) did a nice job of making it believable as just an old hobby Eliot had that came in handy. Much like Hardison's violin solo, this was not a reproduceable event -- it was the combination of right time, right girl, right song that made such an impression on people. After all, Eliot didn't have to be amazing to sell the con -- the Sophie/UK studio part of the con was supposed to do the heavy lifting. Eliot being a pretty good singer as a bonus didn't seem to violate our sense of whether we were pandering or not.
This is one of those times I'm reminded that Hollywood has this weird reputation as a monoculture. "Hollywood" in quotes, etc. Yet everyone I know is from somewhere else interesting and did something else interesting before winding up here. Scott Veach, the writer of this episode, was a dotcom computer whiz with a degree in mathematics whose dad was an astronaut. He also, improbably, has a lot of friends in the rap and hip-hop recording scene. Do not ask why. He is one cybernetic monkey and a jetpack away from being a Matt Fraction character.
Drawing on Veach's tales of corruption within the recording industry and Kane's own misadventures with his former label, we knew the bad guy would be the head of a mid-sized recording company. The trick was to come up with the McGuffin. The episodes always work better, we've found, when we're not just chasing a bag of money or a payout. There has to be a thing. There's a reason the Maltese Falcon exists, and is perfect. The laws of fiction demand it.
This is again where research kicked in. It's odd to think in our world of digital media that physical objects are still important, but they are. Even keeping track of the digital masters for Leverage that are handed over to the network -- the "deliverables" -- is an important and full-time job. The parallel in the music business, the digital masters of the kids' recordings, was an easy leap. You're in a very vulnerable place when you're working early in your career, and I know more than one friend who was simply out-lawyered away from their own work. (EDIT: two great articles aboutt he music business from Commenter @Sullivan: http://tinyurl.com/pwmusic and http://tinyurl.com/clovemath , the section headed "Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) Thanks, Sullivan!)
The studio head's shady past came about from our usual challenge in coming up with appropriate threat for our team to deal with. At one point in the outline process he was money-laundering, and outside bad guys arrived -- but that was too close to "The Boost Job", and felt like ti overcomplicated an otherwise streamlined plot. No, the threat escalation had to come from our bad guy.
However, we're not necessarily going to believe that a guy like this would escalate to murder just to close a deal. He needed a sin, some Original Sin. The idea that he was not just a one-hit wonder but a murderous one seemed too good to pass up. He stole a song in the past, and killed to cover it up. So turning to murder in this episode wasn't out of character or a wild escalation, but on-pattern for him.
This episode is really one of the platonic ideals of Leverage. High concept locale, great villain, clear goals -- hell, a self-contained treasure hunt -- a sympathetic victim, two or three little plot twists, a unique fight scene, fun but not over-the-top con characters. Well, Parker's over the top, but intentionally so.
What closed the deal was John Schneider. Crushing the guy's other hand without looking was his idea, something they shot the first day. The writers room gathered around a laptop and watched those dailies maybe a dozen times. Just delighted by the evil.
It does not hurt that at 50, Schneider's still built like Captain America. Seriously, on wardrobe day, it was amazing how many women of all ages managed to drift by the trailer.
The script didn't lose much from Veach's first draft to production. All you're missing is one fight scene and a great beat where Hardison eliminated the Kane fan sites juuuuust as the Butcher of Kiev's daughter was checking out this new guy on her music site...
Straight in we go:
@Caitlin: was the "pitchy" "I don't think it means what you think it means" a shout out to The Princess Bride?
I think "Say pitchy one more time" was more of a shout out to Pulp Fiction to tell you the truth. Though once the boys are in a riff, there's no telling where they'll go.
@Jezebel: So... how did Nate take out those two thugs?
Oh, another missing flashback. But you know what? I like that you have to guess what happened. I'm not telling.
@eternallygraceful: Who is that girl? She's an ah-mazing singer! :D
Alona Tal, also from Supernatural and Veronica Mars. Although I believe she doesn't sing on a regular basis, she and Kane worked on the song for hours and she really did knock us dead. Another Israeli girl, by coincidence. My manager is very ticked at me that I didn't make introductions.
@nicole: 1) How did you end up casting Alona Tal? (Who was brilliant, by the way!) 2) Was the "I don't think you know what it means" moment (and I'm totally paraphrasing, sorry) an indication that Eliot has seen the movie? Or just that the writing staff are wonderful, amazing geeks? 3) Who directed Kirkwood's music video? The color shadows were kinda trippy... 4) You realize you're a tease right? I seem to remember you promising we'd see Eliot hit someone over the head with a guitar. Or could Kane just not bring himself to do that, even if it was only a prop?
1.) Straight audition, courtesy of our lovely and talented LA casting humans. 2.) I'd say that the writing staff may well have used that rhythm unconsciously. 3.) The Kirkwood video was directed by Mark Roskin, but it was agasint green screen. Our very creative post-production humans -- who also gave you such classics as the film-look fight from "Two Live" and the Super-Happy-Power-Go ad -- cooked up the end product. 4.) I think he did actually hit the guy with the guitar in one take. Just edited out.
@Nicole: Eliot's garnered small tidbits of fame - first with the minor leagues, and now with music. Do you foresee this (the latter especially, since Eliot even mentions it) coming back to bite him and the team in the ass? Or should we assume that Hardison does some hardcore scrubbing to diminish what's out there?
As mentioned back when we did the Q&A on "The Scheherazade Job", Hardison does some hardcore scrubbing -- but also, let's not overestimate their "fame." Can you tell me off the top of your head who the hot act at the Edinbrough Fringe Festival is this year? No, this is still under the radar stuff. Now, Sophie's little stun in the season-ender, on the other hand ...
@Stacy: 1. Was that Christian actually riding the motorcycle or a stuntman? 2. How did Nate take out those two huge goons? Does Nate have some skillz we don't know about yet?
1.) Kane. As usual, doing something stupid. 2.) See above. But assume he does not have deadly melee skills you are unfamiliar with.
@Erin: Whose idea was popstar!Parker? And at what point in the process was that specific "Bjork by way of Gaga/Kesha" look developed? Because she came damn close to stealing the show!
Veach dreamed that up, I believe. Our amazing head of wardrobe, Nadine Haders, was the one who came up with the Bjork by way of GaGa look.
@DMoses: 1.) Was the scene where Eliot is being chased by his newfound groupies inspired by Chris O'Donnell in the Bachelor? I think he was chased by brides-to-be not fans though. 2.) Is the fiddle scam real or made up for purposes of the ep? 3.) How much of his stunts did John Schneider do? 4.) Who's idea was it for Parker to channel Bjork? And I loved that y'all went with a duck/chick dress instead of the swan. 5.) Does Hardison really know what pitchy means, and if not, what does he think it means?
1.) More The Beatles. 2.) Fiddle scam is a classic scam. Real. 3.) All of them. Like Kane, he has a need to panic his executive producers. 4.) See above. 5.) He does know what it means. it means he annoys Eliot.
@Melissa: Well done on the ribs -- ain't Memphis without them! But country music? Uh, not so much. Memphis is the home of the blues and King of Rock 'n Roll. Loved seeing the shots of my hometown though.
As some of the Commenters noted, there actually is a country scene in Memphis, but it's the farm team, essentially, for Nashville. (And I mean that metaphorically, not disparagingly). We chose Memphis because that smaller scene made the con easier to pull off. Oh, and not for the Memphis Beat nod.
@Jordan: 1.) was there an evil speech of evil or am i just so stupid i missed it twice? 2.) Was the name Crane so similar to Kane on purpose or am i giving the writing staff to much credit?
1.) There was no Evil Speech of Evil in this one. He's just evil. 2.) You can never give the writers too much credit.
@ToriR: 1. Thank you for letting us know more of Eliot's past. I wasn't expecting that at all, but it totally worked. Who else's past do we learn more about this season?
2. Did the two guys guarding Nate really start fighting each other?
3. We're going to start seeing more of the Italian soon, right?
4. Will the season finale be a two-parter again? I liked that format in the previous two seasons.
5. Did Nate hypnotize Eliot, too? Will that particular talent of Nate's return in later episodes?
6. I've noticed a few of the team's cons that were actually used by real-life grifters - for example, "The Tap Out Job" featured a slightly changed Fight Club Con that was popular among grifters in the 1920s and 30s. Are most of the cons that Nate or Sophie mention offhandedly sometimes plans that were used by real-life grifters?
1.) You learn quite a bit -- or quite a bit is implied -- about Sophie's past in just two weeks.
3.) Do to availability, the arc broke a littel odder than we expected. But she's around for the Summer season end and, well, as far as anyone else survives into the season finale ...
4.) Summer finale no, winter finale yes.
5.) No and no.
6.) It's a pretty even split, but a lot of them are real.
@G: 1. I felt this episode was a bit slower paced compared to the earlier episodes this season. Not complaining, but wondering whether this was a conscious choice. 2.) Also, this episode I felt there wasn't a "this plan is going wrong" moment. Even forgetting the tape was more of a "someone screwed up" as opposed to "the situation has changed" moment. 3.) What happened to Eliot not crapping where he eats? Is that why he decided to stay away from her?
1.) They can't all be "the Inside Job." I think the story just lent itself to a different pace. 2.) It was more "the mark's not who we think he is" moment. 3.) Hey, it would have been ungentlemanly to turn down a young woman's affections in her hour of need. But end of day, he ain't the kind who does long-distance relationships over Skype.
@Anonymous: Does Eliot actually regret the things he's done and the life he's lived? Was his "100 miles down that road" comment just a statement of fact or a statement of regret?
@tgvcomic: Did Sophie never second guess the wisdom of getting a high profile job like an actress when somebody she may have defrauded at one point may have seen her?
Well, two things. The "relative fame" issue I've talked about before. And also, the heart wants what the heart wants ...
@LawMonkey: My question: is it just me, or have we had the team get tripped up in two episodes by something other than a con going too well or... the other thing, which eludes me at the moment. (I blame that Wild Turkey I'm fighting at the moment. Very distracting.) First Hardison with the client, getting distracted and forgetting to give Parker the code; now Hardison forgetting to grab the master tape. Maybe Hardison's just losing his edge, and this is setting something up for later...
Nope, just two out of the oh, forty-odd we've made, going a little different.
@Tia Dugan: Again, great episode. My two things: 1. I will throw in my cash to get a fangirl tshirt. 2. The 'nice to meet you' to 'let's make out' seemedrushed. Are we missing something?
1.) Check the online store. Not sure, but I think something like them is kicking around. 2.) Stress + Attractive People ... it happens. Hell, Booze + Mildly Attractive People happens faster than that.
@Calla: Now, I actually have a real question. How did Kirkwood expect to get away with singing Crane's song when the night before Crane had sung that very song in the very same bar? Sure, the same customers weren't there, but some of the waitresses were. Or was it just a case of Kirkwood being just so damned oh-so-sure-of-himself that Crane would be out of the picture and no one would notice in time to make a difference?
Kirkwood was pretty sure he could cover that up. Flash in the pan festival acts come and go.
@Christina Loolobrigida: I've just rewatched the re-airing of the ep and when Eliot returns to Kaye Lynn's house and she's going through the emotional lines about how he promised to get her money and their song back, there is a definite feeling of ADR going on for like four of those words, but it's nearly seamless for the rest of it. Was it just a simple ADR missed sync or was there something that got re-written in post?
I think we actually added lines to reset for the act break. Good ear.
@paulinalogan: How do you guys generally find songs for the show? Is there a way for indie artists to pitch music?
We actually don't use songs as much as an instrumental score. All that is done by our music master Joe Loduca. It is amazing how he can tweak each ep's score to fit the theme -- in particular, I love what he did in #309.
@Anonymous: So, we know that Hardison makes their costumes jackets for when they need to be FBI or CSI or whatever. Did he also make Parker's duck dress?
No, his Nana made it.
@JIMBO: From the iF magazine interview with Christian: "I got to sing and my song’s up there and it has to deal with some personal stuff that I went through. This story is not out of thin air – John made sure of that." I understand that it is personal to Christian, but if you can shed some light on it I'd be grateful, please - it sounds intriguing!
That's Kane's story to tell, not mine. Check out his website, maybe he'll get chatty one day.
@Alex: Secondly, I was wondering how you guys chose which song of Christian's to sing this episode. Did it just fit best with the overall mood, or was it a personal favourite of someone's?
Kane chose it, we wrote around it.
@Dawn/StL-MO: ohn - Only question that's NOT been asked ties in with my question & confusion from last week: Since Nate & the group agreed in Jailhouse Job they would only take cases doing good for people who were connected with Moreau &/or would lead them to him, how does Kaye Lynn, her brother, Memphis or Mitchell Kirkwood tie in with Damien Moreau?
No, they said some cases would be about Moreau. Now, admittedly, the season fell out weird, where just the violin one and the latter eps in the Summer would involve him. But that's television for you.
@Traela: Anyway, we didn't really see Eliot or Hardison's "how I got into it" backstory. Are we going to see that too? I'd ask about Sophie, but I'm pretty sure we have a Sophie episode coming up shortly.
I don't think we'll ever make it perfectly explicit. I prefer the version you people have in your heads.
@DaveMB: I like the reference to the potential sample in a rap song being economically more important than a breakout career as a young country star. The music business is very strange -- Nick Lowe is a legend in indy circles, but he is independently wealthy only because "What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding" was covered on the soundtrack album for The Bodyguard.
I believe that was one of the inspirations for the plot.
@JoJo Dancer: Gotta ask, did you guys script Beth hitting Aldis in the face when she raised her hand? Did she adlib or was it accidental? He looked surprised when she hit him.
They worked it out in blocking, if I remember.
@Jesse: Just one question we've seen parker beaten in her area of expertise in the inside job and nate beaten in last seasons finale. Are we ever going to see elliot passed out after a fight he didnt win? or Hardison completely unable to hack something and the team have to work in the dark??
Well, Parker was more beaten by her emerging conscious than anything, but ... we'll see. Hardison was beaten by the Steranko -- he could only delay it, not stop it. And Eliot's certainly taken a few beatings he had to sit down after.
@Anonymous: One thing, though - I don't understand why Eliot would, mid-con, take out his ear piece to fool around with The Woman of the Week. I'm having a hard time believing he'd risk it, considering his protective streak
As note -- it would have been ungentlemanly not to comfort her.
@MoxieSue: Was that Beth doing the thieving dance or a double?
It was Beth. And I have to go find something, hold on a minute ... when Veach turned in his script, this is how he described that moment:
"INT. SADDLEBACK SALOON - MAIN ROOM - CONTINUOUS
Parker takes a breath, like a gymnast before a routine, and then she DANCES and SPINS her way through the crowd.
We ramp between SLOW MOTION and NINJA ZOOMS, giving her movement a cinematic, balletic quality. Her hands dip into and out of various pockets, taking and replacing items, moving so fast that it's hard to keep track of them.
It's all one, beautiful, fluid movement, from one side of the bar to the other. This is Parker as God intended.
She's reaches the other side, looks down and smiles. In her hands: a concert ticket for Brooks & Dunn."
"This is Parker as God intended." That boy can goddam write. And Frakes shot the hell out of it.
@Paige Roberts: One plot question bugged me through most of this, How did Nate know that Eliot could sing? He was surprised to find out that Eliot could cook. "What, you think the only thing I know how to do is bust heads?" Nate hypnotized Alec to make sure he could play violin, so his confidence there seemed logical. But there was no indication on screen that I saw that would have told Nate that Eliot could sing. Yet, he didn't seem at all surprised by Eliot's level of competence, and he was the one to propose Eliot as the "fiddle" to begin with.
Over the intervening two years, he's learned a couple things about Eliot. But again, Eliot didn't have to sing great -- Sophie was the crux of the con, and Hardison was in place with the tuner. Nate was surprised as anyone that Elito is good, he just has a better poker face.
@Tori Tyrell: This isn't a question specifically about this episode, but how do Nate and Sophie get away with loudly talking about their plans on their earbuds?
They're stage-whispering for your benefit. We played around with different volumes over the first year, but these seem to the the best for the audience being able to track what's going on. In the pilot we establish they can actually subvocalize and be heard fine.
@tori-angeli: Oh yes, I've been wanting to ask this question for a while: how long does the show's excellent composer have to write and record the score for each episode? I know much of the music is re-used, but there are some unique bits here and there in most episodes.
Each ep posts for about four weeks. For special episodes, we give him a heads up, and he gets the outlines and scripts at the same time as production. So for some he has a few weeks beforehand to cook up something special, like the Bread Mold Song in "Fairy Godparents Job".
xjill: Was wondering if the crowd in the club scenes could actually hear Christian/Alona singing? Usually when they shoot music (I don't understand exactly why) directors talk about how there was no actual music playing so the crowd has to react / dance to nothing - was that the case here?
Did it both ways.
@Melissa in St Lois: Why did Hardison take Kaye Lynn's tape out and place it in the deck in the first place? They knew they didn't have a lot of time.
There's actually a little cut from the writer's draft tat explained how he was double-checking. Fell out in editing, I think.
@Caillie: Sorry, but I've got to ask. You've said Eliot is a bad man, and now we know Eliot was working for the government. So is he bad as in evil and immoral, or bad as in doing things not necessarily sanctioned by law but justified nonetheless? I hope that makes sense. Kind of like snipers can be seen as "murderers" or "enforcers", depending which side of the equation you're on.
Eliot didn't do all his work for the government. So a bit of both.
@Anonymous: I'm sorry...I have a non-episode question...when you refer to season one episodes by number, do you mean the sequence it was filmed (and on the dvd) or the sequence in which it aired? love the show, thank you!
@StacyB: Lest Aldis be overshadowed by Pjark, I thought his "producer" character was funny, "the attitude!" The young lady playing opposite them in those scenes did an excellent job, too.
She was great. And "First off, lose the attitude" is a room bit Downey brought over from King of Queens. You always say it to someone being scrupulously polite, in order to accentuate your Hollywood douchebaggery.
@ally: And now a question that probably won't get answered but what the hey: Did you get who you wanted for the part of Moreau?
We got the perfect Moreau.
@True: "I'd say the bigger influence on the show, stylistically, was the British Life on Mars." 1.) Huh? Don't get me wrong, Life on Mars is a phenomenal show (thank you BBC America for just existing) but I'm not seeing Life on Mars in Leverage. 2.)Also, I saw you at Ringlers once. You were alone and looked like working on stuff. I contemplated sending you a Scotch and saying a quick 'thank you for Leverage' as I left but I didn't know if you'd find that creepy or intrusive. Do fans approaching you annoy you?
1.) Just love the way it was shot. So crisp, and the color palette was a big influence. 2.) Fans who are not annoying don't, of course, annoy me. And my threshold for annoyance is pretty high. Always feel free to come over and say hello. For fuck's sake, I'm a writer. The fact anyone recognizes me at all is a miracle.
@Michael: ah, just thought of another question: It'd be interesting to know
a) how big a peak there was in online sales of Christian Kanes song after the episode aired b) (somebody who's good with statistics needed here) how many sales went to places where the episode couldn't have been watched legally
a.) The song went to #3 on iTunes country chart. b.) we don't keep track of those things. It would just make us cry.
@Beth H: This may be something you can't answer since you're a writer not a costumer or make-up artist: How often is Sophie in a wig for a con? It's fairly easy to tell when she's using her natural hair, but this time I wasn't sure if the neon streaks were part of a wig, or were some kind of temporary coloring.
Not very often at all, because we like to be able to have her flip between Sophie and her other identity quickly. If we've had her in a wig more than three times in as many years, I'd be stunned.
@Sam73: Q for Mr. Rogers,when did you decide to pick that ' I love it when a plan comes together' line?( thx for that by the way, was waiting for that since Chris played with his phone at concon.) and I 've got an ep unrelated Q, I know we're going to see Chaos again, do we also get Apollo? thx again for takin' some of your precious time to answer our Q's.
1.) Veach threw it in the ep, andHutton tweaked it. 2.) Chaos will be back very, very soon.
@Anonymous: What was the connection between the recording studio not being sound-proof and the location of the safe? I could understand Parker noticing that her shoes made different sounds when walking over the safe vs. walking over the rest of the flooring, but I didn't understand the significance of the music being heard one floor up. Was there additional recording equipment that I missed?
Adroitly answered by another Commenter: "I think the safe location issue was that Parker could hear Eliot when she was standing on the tile above the safe, but not when she moved off of it, which is what alerted her to there being something under that tile other than soundproofing. That was my read of it, at any rate."
@JoJoDancer: have you guys ever considered doing webisodes as a way to promote the show or expand the back stories of the characters?
We've talked about it, but the actors are pretty busy in the off-season -- Kane was on tour literally within 48 hours of wrap this year -- and unavailable during the season. We'll see about expanding the franchise this year.
@USRaider: Was it intentional for the video of Kirkwood's (John Schneider) character to have all the "American" symbolism in it? Many country music videos pull on that schmaltzy sentiment (eagle, flag, etc.), so it seemed too intentional. Especially loved Sophie's (Gina) line, "Oh, we should take him down just for that." Secondly, my wife (whom I converted to Leverage, as well as her mother) asked how all of these cases are tying into the Moreau situation (she didn't see how a crooked Memphis radio exec made sense in a international conspiracy). I halfway explained that some would play in the end, while others wouldn't. Am I somewhat on the mark with this?
1.) The video was a parody of all the classic country videos of the 90's. 2.) As noted, not all the cases are tied in, and to tell the truth, the arc is very much concentrated in the back third of the year.
@gd: So my wife has allowed me to use her powers as a woman to make things not true into facts to grant you the wish of declaring differnet TV shows and books part of the Leverage universe. So which shows, movies, or books would you like to be part of the expanded Leverage Universe? Will the next time we meet the FBI agents will one of them be over Parker because of a cute new blond in his division called Veronica? Does Sophia have a long standing rule not to run cons in Santa Barbra any more? Is Maggie secretly a CIA agent? Sterling actually a demon from hell?
Sadly, our brothers on another network, Psych, ruined my Wold Newton fun by making Leverage a TV show in their universe. Because Eliot definitely had an Uncle Henry.
But please assume any and all other cross-overs are possible with the exception of ones where the actors would crossover characters.
@Kris: 5.) Mark Shepperd, Alona Tal... Can Jensen or Jared making a guest appearance be far behind? ;) (I know, scheduling - but I'd love to see Jensen get a chance to do the whole evil-bad-guy thing. Oh well. I'll just entertain myself imagining the Leverage crew running into Sam and Dean Winchester.) (I bet that fanfic actually exists, but I am not looking for it.)
Improbably, Kane and Jensen are best friends. But those boys are doing just fine.
Hey, not bad at all! You guys are mostly cross-talking in there now. Okay, I'll see if I can squeeze out one more before #311. Regardless, enjoy "The Rashomon Job", and we'll see you on the other side.