Before we start, I'd like to note that the snark levels are getting a little spiky in the Comments. Keep it even, people.
This episode was actually written fairly early in the season. Albert Kim came in with the story of how stolen cars are being cloned and stolen interstate, along with a ton of research about car theft rings. It was a great Leverage pitch. Clear bad guy plot set in an interesting location with naturally dangerous threats. We'd actually scouted the speedway the year before, and had it up on the board in the "To Do" column of cards. Once written, though, its scope demanded that it be moved back, to where we'd built up a little safety room before tackling something this big.
Every writer breaks story different ways. Downey has the high concept premise in his head. I pitch plot. Boylan comes at it purely from charactery goodness. Veach also likes high-concept, while Geoff comes at it almost from a wish-fulfillment "what would be fin to watch the Leverage team do?". The Wonder Twins and Albert are both research hounds. Both pitch up so much solid info about the real-life crimes that story and character fall out of reality. It's worth noting these different styles because it's worth reinforcing that there is no one right way to break a story (except mine) or be a television writer. Know your toolbox. Work to expand it. But at the end of the day, as my grandfather said -- "A man's got to know his swing."
This story allowed us to homage our favorite Rockford Files episode "Never Send a Boy King to Do A Man's Job." This one is the ur-Rockford. Richie Brocklemaan. Rockford saying "I'm not going to get involved"... and then laying out the whole con in a "if you were gonna do it" scene. Multiple long cons, shady characters from Rockford's past, Downey's favorite scene -- the "audition" of con men, like a casting call -- and the infamous "Get Hittite pot" on Rockford's "con to-do" list.
He has a to-do list. It's hilarious.
And Rockford hooks the bad guy by out-racing him. Seriously, all that's missing is the silver racing suit.
We were very pleased to have Bill Engvall for a bad guy. We'd been talking about having him on for ages, and his schedule finally worked out for us on this episode. I used to do stand-up with Bill back in the day -- never hung together, but bumped into each other often enough that we recognized each other at the upfronts. There, among the professionally pretty people and powerbrokers in suits, I asked him "You ever think you'd be standing here?" He shook his head and said "No way." He's a good, honest, hard-working funny son of a bitch. Pleasure to see him doing so well, and beginning to stretch into one hours. I think his performance on Leverage shows he's going to have a great career doing dramas.
Also ridiculously lucky to have Malese Jow. Because I am a cranky forty-year old, I had no idea who she was. On the first day of dailies, I emailed Albert and said "Good GOD, does she have a development deal?" He then had to explain to me that Malese was ridiculously famous and was doing far better in her career than I ever will. Ah, obsolescence, I welcome your sweet embrace.
The EMP car-killer is, of course a lot bigger than what we built, but it's real enough. As are the "cheat codes" and about 90% of the tech we throw around in this one. It really is amazing how little we know about cars now, and how high-tech they are.
This is also one of the places where we establish the limits of the earbuds. Not that the limits are consistent, of course, but that sometimes they don't work. They were getting a little too reliable, and we really need to make sure not everything works for the team all the time.
Other than that it was a pretty straight-up Leverage episode. Oh, and Hutton really drove the racecar. And Kane did his own car hit. So other than the cast trying to kill me with stress, very ordinary episode. Let's jump into the questions.
@Jennifer: Was the Shelby Cobra on tonight's episode an original or a kit built?
Kit built, but for legal reasons we couldn't name it in the episode. Which meant we had to come up with another name; we chose "Veronica". In theory that was a pain in the ass, but serendipitously led to one of the best jokes of the night: "Who knew Betty was the fast one?" Always something good in the barrel.
@Anonymous: My question - what are we seeing exactly between Parker and the teen - mentor, older sister, seeing "herself"?
Seeing herself, and acting on her nascent sense of family. Hell, five years ago she probably wouldn't have been self aware enough to see the resemblance.
@Sherri: What's with the humanizing of Parker? Seriously, I love the development, but it's playing with my head.
I think it's just the natural reaction to having people in her life that care about her. Don't worry, she'll never be quite right.
@Anonymous: Have we ever seen Eliot kill someone? I don't really recall we did, but it seems like we are going to, real soon.
No, you have not seen him kill anyone while working with the Leverage team. Yet. Considering his headspace, they would have to be in real, real trouble before he'd kill anyone again.
Very, very bad trouble.
@Andy: "They hit me with a car!" If I remember my Venture Brothers dialog correctly, there was a line from the first episode (not pilot) that went, "They hit me with A TRUCK!" Has Eliot entered Brock Sampson levels of resilience?
He is the Leverage-verse Brock Samson.
@Whimseyrhodes: when Eliot zapped the cars on the big rig, how did he avoid hitting the rig itself? Are we to assume it was a very-super-ultra-uber localized beam like a bullet, and wouldn't stray from it's trajectory?
It is indeed a tight linear beam, just like the real one.
@Rick: The EMP Cannon; Ledger or Black Box?
@Oona: 1.) Nate has been fairly easy on Parker, both in the Inside Job and here, when she made rash decisions that turned out badly. Is Parker sort of the "favored" baby of the family to him or is he just feeling the most protective of her because he knows she (seemingly) has had the toughest time of it or something else? The ending with the big dinner was awesome - such a nice throwback to the Wedding Job. 2.) Was that scene fully scripted or did the cast just riff?
I don't think he's gone easy on her. I think being a good manager is knowing when to let the horse run. And he is much, much more cognizant of his own failings this year than last. 2.) As Albert notes in his Twitter feed, the final scene was a Gina pitch. We're now at the point where the actors have very canny senses of who these people are and what we need to see them do. Making the show is far more interesting at this point in a show's arc.
@Bethia: At the beginnning, the guy in the truck was said to be a school teacher on the "newscast". At the end, Nate said something about the client's landscaping business. I'm confused. Thanks!
He does landscaping part-time to pay the bills, as we criminally underpay our schoolteachers. The victim was named Mantlo, btw, after ROM writer Bill Mantlo. We have a bit of a ROM thing int he room. I will torture the writer's room for hours with my "Rom-com".
@SueN: 1) Why didn't Eliot zap his truck's system when he zapped the cars? (Oh, and much love for Eliot with a raygun! *g*) 2) The Challenger was Eliot's. So, did he trade in his truck from last season, or does he collect vehicles? (And will he get the Challenger back from Nate? *g*) 3.) For two and a half seasons now, we've heard Eliot bitch and bark at Parker and call her crazy (and tonight threaten to kill her). And, granted, annoyed!Eliot is funny!Eliot. To us. But what about Parker? Does she take his barking and bitching and "there's somethin' wrong with you" seriously, or does she understand that anger is Eliot's particular kind of craziness?
1.) Noted above. 2) He collects vehicles. Which he occasionally gives away, to prove he is not attached to them. 3.) She both takes him literally and interprets him differently than normal people. There is something wrong with her.
Ian: I just wanted to say that the decision to make the EMP gun have the same warm-up sound as the Ghostbusters' proton packs -- and then have Hardison say "this chick is toast" -- was pure genius.
I believe that was our creative post humans riffing off the dialogue line. They're like little comedy elves. We show up for the first cut, and there are the bonus jokes, under the tree, utterly unexpected.
@Marquis: I'd like to ask if the Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start for cars really exists but I'm kind of afraid of the answer.
Not quite that combo, but yes, those cheat codes exist.
@Courtney: Gonna take a guess here and say that Eliot has had dive training at some point? I'm starting to wonder if he wasn't a Navy SEAL in another life.
Army boy. But yeah, he can handle himself in a variety of settings.
@MacSTL: One question for now - We have seen the team use the bar much more for the con. We know Hardison owns the building. Did the team work out some special deal with Cora? What is the relationship now?
Cora still owns the bar, but the Leverage team are trusted friends. Family, practically. If no one's using the place, it's theirs to use how they will.
@USRaider: My question is: you probably write at least a half an episode more than what we see on the screen. What are the decisions that go into what actually makes an episode and what happens to the material you don't use?
Good Lord, we're too lazy to do more work than necessary. Now, although we often wind up with more story than we need when breaking an episode, we are writing to a specific production budget, which means a certain number of shooting days and certain number of pages per shooting day. Our scripts run from 50-55 pages, generally. 56 if they're dialogue-heavy. When shooting, we're rarely more than a few minutes long on the first cut.
@USRaider: Noticed that, after the job was finished and Nate and Sophie were discussing Parker's "punishment," when Nate called Parker over, she seemed to have that "revering" look that she had with Archie at the end of "The Inside Job." Does this mean that Parker has accepted Nate as her new tutor or is it more of the familial dynamic that the team has created?
I think it's more that Beth Riesgraf admires Tim Hutton for his magnificent leadership and ... oh, never mind. I think it read more as a reserved attitude, sort of an emotional waiting space you can read a lot into.
@Joe Helfrich: "You can hack anything with a battery, right? ... You now have 1 minute thirty seconds." This is how Parker flirts, isn't it?
The poor boy is doomed.
@LawMonkey: Interesting to see the 360 on the evil duo of evil (plus potential proto-Parker). Was that a first, or did we have a 360 on the 2 Live Crew Job?
... you know what? Great catch. I think that was a first.
@Rebecca: Parker told Eliot she'd been a thief since she was 9. Now we find out she was boosting cars at 12 and was a getaway driver before that (sometime between ages 9 and 12). She was a pickpocket when she met Archie. How old was she when she met up with Archie? We know she lost a brother as a child, will we ever see what happened to her real parents and why she was in the foster system? In the pilot, did she blow up her real parents' home or her foster parents'?
Remember, on Leverage you will never see Wolverine run into the woods in a poncey nightshirt. Or, for those of you who have lives, we will never nail down their backgrounds in one linear narrative. Although I will say those were (one set of) her foster parents she blew up in the pilot, I'm not going to confirm or deny that the boy who died was her real brother or one of her foster brothers.
@Odie: I also enjoyed the final scene with the team eating together. Which leads to questions: 1.) why wasn't Eliot eating? 2.) In scenes like that, where they're all talking at once, or like the one where Nate told Sophie to stall, are their lines scripted, or do they just improvise? 3.) Who hit Eliot with the car?
1.) He had his 500 calories for the day. 2.) It depends. They usually improv when so many of them are talking, it's very hard to script that. 3.) A drunken pensioner who then raced off to hider her sin.
@Moxie: If Hardison's EMP gun was directionalized enough that it could disable the cars without disabling the auto-carrier, how is it that it knocked out Eliot's earbud (which was in the opposite direction)?
The earbuds are more sensitive, and were closer to the gun. EM bleed. If he wore a watch, he would've noticed that it stopped. (And no, he doesn't ever wear a watch.)
@BobRoland: John, First I wanted to thank you both for Leverage and the comic Blue Beetle. I took my son to a comic book store last week (he just caught the bug) and found back issues of the book. I bought them all, and both my son and I loved him. The humanity you brought to the character was refreshing.1.) I recall reading some talk about a live action Blue Beetle show. If there was such a show, would you ever have an interest in writing for Jamie again? 2.) About the episode, I loved it, but I had some concerns about the EMP gun. I get that technology in the Leverage universe is a bit more magical than in ours, but are you worried about having to explain away in future episodes why they just don't use this device on a regular basis? It seems to me that having access to a magic "make electronics not work for a half hour" device would we too easy a way out for many stories.
1.) I'd love to write for Jaime again. We'll see what happens if the show goes forward. 2) The EMP gun has very specific uses -- and you will actually see it again.
@jimbo: Brief question - was Gina saying "nicking" in the script, or her addition? On a similar note, do you have anyone in-house to help with the English slang or is it just Gina?
"Nicking" was in the script, but we've had Sophie use the word before. There's probably a reason she prefers that word. Although our amazing Mary Mac helps with accents, we write the slang and Gina tells us if it's off or not.
@Lily: I've noticed in all the episodes Eliot always gives Parker the fed up look or just the I can't stand you look. Eliot gave Hardison the high five for morale in the last episode so will there ever be a time when he actually supports/tolerates Parker?
He and Parker have a very different, very professional relationship. if anything, he gets along with her better 80% of the time. Watch the pairing scenes when we break them off in episodes. Eliot always feels he has to keep an eye on Hardison. He relies on Parker.
@Nina May: (question about Sophie's rings that is incredibly complex and well though out)
Although Gina has Sophie wear different rings for different personas, I'm not sure it's as codified as you think it is. Kind of a halfway point between the methodology you posit and Gina and Nadine Haders coming up with what feels right for the persona.
@jenks: I know this question should have come with the Inside Job, but we've now met at least one person from everyone's past except Hardison. Is that ever going to happen? (Please say yes. . . )
@Katie: I'd like to chime in about when the heck we're going to get to see more of Sophie's background. In my head she's actually a girl from a very small, very poor mid-western town that chose an English accent and a French name to make herself feel more sophisticated. Far fetched I know, but I'm just throwing it out there, would explain a few things, most specifically how well she understands the American high school system. And also it makes me giggle a little. 1.) But for serious, when do we get to see her background story? 2.) Will we ever get to see more flashbacks of Nate chasing the team. If my memory serves we've only seen him actually chasing/catching Sophie, but it could be fun to see more of their past that led them together.
1.) You got big hints of it in "The King George Job" as you know know. And she is, indeed, British. 2.) I think "Rashomon" counts, but we'll see what else comes up in S4.
@babysmoke: Come to think of it, maybe I do have a question for Mr. Rogers. Has a crossover ever been tabled or carded for future shows/seasons? If yes, which shows have been tossed around?
Well, the main problem is that all the other shows on TNT are made by giant studios, who may or may not want to play nice with our little indie studio, by which I mean the crazy guy financing the show. But yes, we've discussed it, and I'm not going to name names because I don't want to queer the deal if we try to do one for S4.
@Katie: One more question, how much of Nate and Sophie's stalling fight (kneeing him was brilliant btw) was Sophie legitimately being pissed at him and airing her grievances while she had the chance? The comments about him being drunk and her paying made me think she was being serious. And what's with Sophie being violent with Nate lately? There's been a couple slaps and now a junk-shot. Oh, and was Sophie honestly pissed about him slapping her ass? Did Nate do it just to cop a feel? He seemed pretty unashamed about it...
Sophie works Method.
@Sullivan: Your twitter tease re. the "Saint" story is tantalizing. But, now I'm wondering if I can reread all of my Saint collection before the finale airs. Do you realize that there were over a hundred "Saint" stories? So can you narrow it down a bit? Was it post-Patricia Holm? Pre- or post-WW2? Was Teal or Fernack involved? Please don't keep us in suspense forever - as the bishop said to the actress.
For those who don't know, I mentioned on Twitter that my half of the season finale is inspired by an old Simon Templar story -- hell, I think you can point to the Saint as a direct influence on the birth of Leverage. I will say the story is from later in the series.
@Dawn?StL-MO" Has there ever been a scene you wrote that ended up being totally unworkable - one or two you would have loved to have pulled off?
Most of the time we find ways to do at least SOME version of the scene. There are a few times where physical production stops us -- there was a zipline beat in the Christmas episode that was cut. But generally, no, we find a way to do almost everything, just to scale.
@AMY:This is a more general question, but will we ever see how people come to find the Leverage team? You have episodes w/ victims from all over the place and I've always wanted to see at least one of them show how they found the crew.
The Leverage team tends to find them, as mentioned in "The Homecoming Job". Hardison has trackers set up with both the news feeds and with legal aid departments, etc, that help them find clients.
@Anna: 1. A 12-year-old as a getaway driver? Was that like the world's worst foster father (and most definitely the stupidest)? 2. Those laser transponder car thingies don't seem like they should've been around during Parker's stint as a car thief. I thought she was exclusively a diamond thief when she joined up, so does that mean she had a 'thief' relapse during her time with the crew? Or did she just steal cars and tell no one? 3. NLP again! Yay! Will we see other characters using this technique as well?
1.) There have been dumber criminals. 2.) Parker stays up on her thief tech. She's a hobbyist at least in that stuff. 3.) That tends to be Sophie's territory. The rest lack the subtlety to use it.
@Heather: what happens to the employees of the big corporations that the team takes down? Like the sexting dude from the wheat company or the receptionist that Eliot flirted with in the pilot. They were able to send the rival mom and pop salespeople to Tahiti or Hawaii or whatever, but they can't do that for everyone. Is this ever going to come back to bite them in the ass? Are they going to be contacted by someone who's been unemployed and gotten in debt and then find out the client lost their job because of something the team did?
As I noted a while ago, they usually take down individuals. The times they've dinged a whole company is when the company itself has been based on a lie, and so is hurting the integrity of the free market system. (Don't snicker, I take that seriously). Sexting dude from the wheat company didn't lose his job, and even if he did, it was because of the layoffs already coming, not ones that the team initiated. Our guys drifted in behind those facts on the ground, using them for cover.
That said, they've definitely left some collateral damage around them. They just see it as acceptable when considering the damage done by the bad guys. They may be wrong. They are not always very nice people.
@mad: While I love happy endings the teacher just taking Josie on as a landscaping assistant was a little too neat...and somehow a little creepy. He just took the race car and the girl and was going back home to his family?? And Josie just blithely went along with him? There must have been a long conversation we weren't in on!
Yes. A long, boring conversation devoid of drama, and hence unworthy of your valuable entertainment minutes.
@Codger: And I just thought of a question from the way-back machine. In the pilot Nate was about to fly out of Chicago, which happened to be where Sophie was living and Nate knew where she was working. Was Nate in Chicago to try to work up the nerve to go see Sophie and chickened out before Dubenich came to hire him?
No, but he certainly knew she was there. And if he got the job, well, no harm in calling...
@lily: (1) to what extent was the emp gun based on feasible technology? and (2) was Eliot truly upset with Parker? i wasn't sure how much was him deciding that he was sick and tired of her being crazy and untrustworthy as opposed to him just being understandably pissed about getting hit by a car and giving her shit because it *was* her fault. and (3) did Sophie's talk with Nate actually influence his decision to give Parker a break? or did he appreciate for himself how significant Parker's screwup was in terms of her interpersonal skills?
1.) See above. 2.) See above 3.) Sophie has a huge influence on Nate.
@RevTrask: Wasn't there a big risk of another "Cousin Jimmy" complication cropping up? With Penzer's history as a race driver, it would seem as though he'd have had the sources and connections to check out Nate's cover.
There's always that risk. But he did check out Nate, and this time Hardison's cover held.
Crescent: Twice Parker says "Outta my way, you old bat!" and in the Gone Fishing Job the wallpaper on one of the computers Parker is using is a cat saying "Outta my way, you old bat!" Is this an in-joke with the writers?
Nope, that's the computer guys having a bit of fun, having seen the upcoming script.
@ACK: 1) Why did the car alarms not ring when the cars were initially stolen at the parking lot? 2) If they had the keys to begin with, why go through the scene of them breaking in and hotwiring the cars? 3) Why didn't the gun kill the big rig?
1.) Because those were very ordinary alarms, and so easily circumvented by Parker. 2.) They didn't have all the keys. We just shortened the sequence/montage in the edit. 3.) Answered above.
@Anonymous: Can Hardison hack a PS3? The whole "hack anything with a battery thing" got me thinking of the deemed unhackable device.
Sure, but why?
@Heather: 1-Hardison hacked Sterling's car in the Two Horse Job, so why was he so freaked out when Parker asked him to do his thing on the one in the Boost Job?
2-If they had the keys, why did they have to break into all of those cars? Did they make the keys later, or yoink them from a valet board?
1.) Sterling's hack wasn't that difficult, or carrying a death sentence 2.) answered above.
@ChelseaNH: At the race track, Hardison reacts to Penzer's protest that no one could be his record by 15 seconds. Did the team put the bug on Penzer or his pit crew?
Nope, the track guy.
@Kris: Random question: That accent Sophie used when she was getting the dealership owners out of town--I guess I'd call it her go-to American accent? Is it supposed to be region-specific? Just curious. I don't have a great grasp on that sort of thing, and that's just one of my favorite Sophie voices. Something about it is very... not exactly calming or soothing, but reassuring, I guess? Definitely a voice you want to trust.
No, not region-specific. Generic newscaster American. You'll see that when she's not doing a specific regional accent, she has about three she cycles through depending on the social status/con role of the person she's doing.
Right, let's see if I can blow through another one of these tomorrow and at least get into double-digit episodes before the summer finale. As always, thanks for your time and attention.