Monday, December 06, 2010

LEVERAGE #310 "The Underground Job" POST-GAME

Well, you don't have to go far for the bad guy here. The headlines were all over the place as we were breaking this episode -- indeed, it was one of the few times Dean sent us an email asking "We're doing this one, right?"

As you all know, I believe the government is best that governs least. But this really is one of those situations where the need of a regulatory body cannot be argued. I mean, in the dozen or so real cases we researched, some mine owners ignored hundreds of safety citations -- hundreds per mine -- and gamed the system with appeals and shenanigans with local judges. It doesn't take much to imagine what they'd get away with if there wasn't even the hollow threat of government intervention we have now.

Yes, yes, they paid fines. But as we all know, a fine is a price. In this case, the price of doing business without worrying about killing the men who are trying to feed their families by working your jobsite.

The Wonder Twins, as always, did a ton of research as they broke the story. Coltan, the MacGuffin of the episode, is real. Gave us a nice update on the old "salting a mine" con.

They actually found a mine worker's rep who talked to them for a good long time, told them about all the equipment, the safety measures, even gave them the shift-change dialogue for the opening sequence. His only request is that they not make coal mining look like a second-rate or pitiable job. We tried hard to make the point -- yes, it's dangerous and dirty, but somebody has to go into the goddam earth and crack her bones to make your electricity for your Facebook page and Xboxes and baby incubators.

As to the character beats, it wasn't a big stretch to put Eliot in the mine. After all -- pickaxe fight. C'mon, it's practically mandatory. His relationship with the kid is one of respect. The boy was stepping up to support his family. That, more than anything, is what got Eliot on his side. At the same time, he's acutely aware of dumb choices young men who lie about their age make -- hence his desire to move Cory over to something more advancement oriented.

We're always interested in putting Parker into the cons. As I've stated before, nobody quite writes Parker like the Twins, and they did a great job of advancing Parker's con abilities here. Sophie's been schooling Parker off and on for three years now. Parker's's never going to be great at it, and she'll always do it in her weird, obsessive way, but Parker's at least dependable in the short con. Just don't throw a curveball at her. And note I said "dependable", not "good." That may seem like a fine distinction, but considering how Hardison is simultaneously inspired and awful in short cons, it's a distinction worth making.

The character of the Attorney General was, for the first outline, a guy ... we'll deal with that in the questions. The mine owner, I will admit, was a decent character that turned into a great one when Bruce Davison signed on. Much like Michael O'Keefe made a series of small, inspired choices to build up his character, Bruce's off-beats grounded a villain that very easily could have gone over the top. My favorite moment, one of my favorite acting moments in the entire series, is when he's about to make the call to blow up the mine. He starts to dial the phone, looks at the AG and says "Here we go." There's a little ... naughtiness there, an almost sexual frisson. It's inexplicable and utterly necessary at the same time. I know people will argue Pesci deserved the Oscar for Goodfellas, but damn ... I mean, there are very few moments of such raw humanity as Davison's "goodbye" speech in Longtime Companion. It's a bit like how Hoffman won the Oscar for Rain Man, but Cruise had the much harder role -- but that's an argument for another post.

Before we dive into the questions, I want to give a big shout-out to Production Design and Sets on this one. They did a fantastic job of making a very small, twisty set of tunnels look like multiple areas in a much larger complex. That, combined with some great shot-making by Marc Roskin gave this episode a lovely feeling of scope.

All right. Here we go.

@SueN: Just a comment on the preview: Thanks for drawing attention to the recent (and unbelievable) Supreme Court decision which codified the selling of our government to the highest corporate bidder. That still pisses me off …

We talked to an election law specialist who consults for presidential candidates while researching ... Jesus, which was it, we've made 40-odd of these. Oh, yes, the season opener, when the PAC fund scam was a much more complicated piece of business than what wound up in the script. I remember how I was at first a little derailed when we were talking to him:

Me: "So wait, election funds are that tightly regulated --"

Expert: "Oh yes. You can't move a dime out of an election fund without the Feds bringing down the hammer."

Me: "Dammit. What about a PAC?"

Expert: "PAC'S are essentially slush funds. Like exploratory committees. You can move money all over the place with those."

Me: "What's the difference between a PAC claiming to support a general cause -- but actually dedicated to supporting one candidate -- and an election fund?"

Expert: "Ahhhh. Now you're getting it."

The Citizen's United Decision we reference in passing has managed to be precisely as miserable as its critics -- election reform experts both conservative and liberal -- anticipated. Politico -- not exactly a liberal news organization -- reported that out of the roughly $15 million one PAC raised in the months before the last election, nearly $7 million came FROM ONE GUY. A coal mining concern dumped in another $2 million.

All this is not to sob and boo-hoo about corruption. I'm not making a political statement, I'm making a crime-writing statement here. If you're a crime-writer, you look for ways to hack society's inherent social and legal regulations, because that's what smart crooks do. The really interesting crimes are the ones that aren't technically crimes. I'm as interested in the ability of rich people to influence elections -- that is, for people to protect their interests and maximize their money -- as I am in guys who provide bad service to game the Google search rankings, or people who crash entire countries' internets. (Okay, in theory that last one's a crime. But there are ways of doing it that aren't crimes ... yet.) Right now I'm kind of fascinated by research into charity grift. The Leverage CrimeWorld is a direct cousin of FilmNoirWorld -- corruption is its operating system.

@Joella Blue: For two episodes now Parker has mocked Eliot's pain such as being hit by a car and by a tire iron. If this was a novel, I would think this is foreshadowing some event where Parker regrets or is made to regret mocking him. Either he turns on her or really gets hurt. Close? or waaay out in left field?

It's more a mix of her belief that Eliot is invulnerable and her own annoyance at the situation during the times in question. Empathy is not her strong suit. I'm not even sure she owns that suit.

@Gina: Uh, guys? The Palin parody? Completely lame. Now, give us a parody of a First Lady who spends like a drunken sailor in the middle of a recession . . . then you'd REALLY have something funny. As a new fan, I usually like your show, but it might behoove you to remember that your audience isn't 100 percent liberal. Just every once in a while, you know. As a novelty. :-)

We wound up having a ... spirited discussion about this in the Comments. Apparently things got a little warm over on the TNT boards as well.

The character started as a male judge -- we were doing a straight-on buy-off conspiracy. We realized then that we hadn't had a female villain for a while, and putting the bad guys literally in bed with each other would give us some fun juice and another lever to use when we spoiled the conspiracy in the fifth act. So the male judge became a female AG. A particularly law-and-order female AG who went to a Serious University and revelled in her job and political career. And who wore the kind of suits female politicians have to wear like a goddam uniform in the American political scene, god help you if you diverge from that studiously desexualized image ...

That ain't Sarah Palin. Hell, you could argue it was based on Nikki Haley, or Kamala Harris, or Kay Hagan or, to tell you the possibly actionable truth, Kay Bailey Hutchinson ... but here we are, running right into the issues we ran into with sex in #207 and race in #304. We live in polarized times, and people read media as they will.

I think a more interesting discussion is: if we do parody figures who self-identify as conservative, is that parodying conservatism? For example, I don't think Sarah Palin can carry Senator Lugar's lunchbox. I once made fun of the book Liberal Fascism, and people were offended that I was making fun of conservatives. No, I was making fun of one well-written but horribly conceived book. (And I would remind you, if a post on this blog doesn't have the "Leverage" tag on it, anything is fair game. This blog preceded Leverage, and will survive it.)

If we make fun of Clinton's horndogginess, are we making fun of liberals? Amy Poehler's Hillary makes me laugh so hard I wince. I personally think Michael Moore's done some nice work, but Jesus Christ does he come across as an asshole, and is ripe for parody. I wouldn't consider slapping him around filmically a blanket condemnation of liberalism.

You can figure that the Congressman from "Homecoming" was Republican or Democrat, you can assume the AG was either, based on the accent and the location ... End of day the Leverage storytelling universe is built around an axis of People With Power, and People Without. Last time I checked, lots of R's and D's after the names of the People With, and plenty of R's and D's on the People Without.

And I cannot finish, without noting, as one commenter did, that you want people to spend during a recession. :P

@whimseyrhodes: So here are my questions: The mine was supposedly filled with methane, or pockets of. Why didn't the entire mine blow when the first explosion went off?-and-Why didn't Eliot seem to notice it when it DID blow?

Because they faked it. The methane detectors were rigged. That may not have been clear in the flashbacks. Our bad.

@J.J: I thought the "sounds like they were working out" comment was great but Is Parker really that naive about sex or is Parker just not a noise girl

Parker did not expect to hear those sounds in that context. I refuse to comment on her ... "noisiness."

@Caitlin: My mom and I were just wondering if there were any interviews done with the families of victims of mining accidents when this episode was being written. And is there any chance that Cory might come back?

Not only would we not want to bother those folks, it would have been touchy to base the whole ep on one case. It's an amalgam. Assume Cory is moving on to a very satisfying, non-Leverage life.

@Hardy: Did Parker sleeping in Hardisons van signify a growing comfort level/relationship or am I reading to much into it?

You know, we always kind of assumed she catnapped in weird places this whole time. It's a sign of trust, but nothing all that significant.

@Anonymous: Did a Nate/Sophie scene towards the end got cut? I saw a production still that made me believe we'd get a nice N/S scene at the end when Nate got out of the mine. Why are you deleting Nate/Sophie scenes lately? The same happened in The Three Card Monte Job. There are hardly any Nate/Sophie scenes as it is this season. You're making this fan very unhappy. Whhhhyyyyy?

That still was taken as the actors set up a shot, we never shot the cut scene. I don't remember what got cut in "Three Card ..." I think there's a lot of Nate/Sophie in this season, but much like I will never get enough Eliot/Mikel or Hardison/Chaos action for my personal taste, we can never make everybody happy.

@Linn25: You're not really trying this season with Nate and Sophie, are you? I mean, last season Sophie was gone but then we got that fabulous kiss. I was looking forward to see more of the sexual tension after THAT kiss, looked so promising. Okay, we got a couple of moments early in the season but now you've totally abandoned them, the romance between them. This season should've built on that kiss. Such a shame and a missed opportunity after the kiss. Almost too late but is there anything coming up for them at all?

You see, I never get this right. But I'd say the entire season is built off that kiss. It discharged the energy, like a spark, and reset the relationship. A lot of the Nate/Sophie stuff this season is them figuring out "well, what are we now?" Sophie's his partner and equal this season in ways she's never been up to now. That's going to change the relationship, but in my mind only make it more mature.

@OhShinyTomato: Please tell me that you'll work into another episode all of Parker's "notes" she has on each member of the team. That would be hilarious.

We may put them on the DVD.

@Beige: There were lit lanterns all over the mine in addition to the electric lights. It sure looked cosy, but am I right in suspecting that lanterns are TV shorthand for 'old and unsafe mine'?

Close enough. But were those "lamp" lamps or electric lamps? I'll have to go back and check. Frankly, you may have just caught us out.

@Tom Galloway: One minor hitch in the fun train; I got the impression that the miner came to the team, not them finding out about the problem and contacting him. So now random folk from small, usually socially isolated, backwoods towns 500 or so miles away known about the Leverage crew and how to contact 'em? These guys are almost as easy to find as the A-Team! : -)

This is funny, because I had lunch with the fabulously talented and amusing Matt Nix the other day, and as we genially gave each other shit about our shows, the clients finding the Leverage team was one of his bugaboos. However, he admired it: "'How did you find the team?' Who gives a shit? We're Leverage! 'Why do you trust these people?' WHO GIVES A SHIT?! WE'RE LEVERAGE!"

At the same time, if I had to write what he had to write every week, I'd put a gun in my mouth. "Michael, my Yoga instructor's second cousin's niece got involved with meth dealers. You have to help her."

We actually did, way back when, write an explanation of how Leverage found the clients. It was in "Homecoming", where Hardison explained how his new tech setup scoured legal aid websites, headlines, etc, for potential clients, then contacted them through proxies. Not sure if it ever made it on the air. To tell you the truth, Matt's right -- who gives a shit? Our job as pulp writers is to deliver you the most interesting moments from the case of the week. We dug in early that we'd never reveal the client process, for both that reason -- it's boring -- and for a larger philosophical reason. We always wanted the audience members to feel like, at any time, the Leverage team could swoop in and help them. Details in this case would accomplish nothing but disillusionment.

@Kevin: I didn't see it in the comments yet (sorry if blind), but I don't understand how the AG knew sophie was tricking her. One moment she's stunned that "sophie" is sleeping with her man and taking the pac money out (away from blackwell) and next she's telling sophie she's on to her and cancelling the transaction and threating to send her to jail.

She knew that (Sophie) had pretended to be a mine inspector as part of her con, and threatened to reveal it AS part fo her jealous retribution.

@Stacy: 1. Loved having Tim bring back the Gibson character. I would really love to have you bring back his Karl Lagerfeld impersonation, though I have no clue how you would fit that in. 2. I really appreciated how Parker has to equate grifting to be 'stealing souls' just to fit into her frame of reference. 3. Was really shocked that Eliot actually swung a killing blow in the mine fight scene. I don't think we've ever seen him actually try to kill anyone before. He usually just goes for the knockout. Kinda disturbing, but wholly sexy. I know, I'm sick.

1.) You ain't seeing that frilly fan again. 2.) We're working on another nice Sophie/Parker beat for S4 even as we speak. Sophie's finally figured out how to explain things to Parker in a way she understands. 3.) Yes you are sick, but that blow was meant to break the other pickaxe, not kill the guy. He's trying very hard not to kill people. Yet.

@Erin: Question 1) Obviously if Eliot really wanted the guy dead, he'd be dead - but would it be safe to say that at that moment he didn't *care* much if the guy took a terminal pickaxe to the skull? Or was it just a very cool-looking move with no particular deeper meaning? And 2) If the mine was basically a death trap, how could the team risk even that small explosion? Was "Section C" supposed to be a little more stable than the rest of the mine?

1.) Noted above. 2.) More stable, and they're very good at their jobs.

@Stacy: One last question (well, maybe the last). Has anyone ever addressed the question of why the seasons are split? I really dislike it and would like to know if there is actually some sort of logic behind it. KTHXBAI.

All the networks are struggling with ways to retain viewers in a very crowded marketplace. The theory that by spiking winter episodes you create a kind of, ah, "enthusiasm bridge" between seasons is a popular one, and actually makes a fair bit of sense. I'll be interested to see if Walking Dead holds its audience after a ten month break, for example.

@RevTrask: I have a question concerning the "group gloat"...isn't it smarter *not* to let the mark know who took him? If it's to protect the client by diverting attention, how difficult would it be for the villain to follow the paper trail? Does Hardison erase all records of the client's travel to Boston or phone records, etc? I know that it's a popular element of the show. It just seems kinda cocky and the sort of thing that could turn around and bite a grifter in the ass.

Dean has a formula for the show to be emotionally engaging, which we hew to and I do not disagree with: 1.) We must like the victim, no matter how small the role may seem. 2.) The villain must suffer. 3.) The team must deliver a moment where the villain knows it's not an accident, he has been brought down because of his bad actions. I assure you, they are in no position to chase down the Leverage team after the missions.

Most of them, anyway.

@Odie: Now for this week's: 1.) Why did the scene with Nate getting whacked on the head get shown twice? That would have potentially allowed time for the 'missing' scenes. 2.) Just how big is 'Lucille II'? 3.) We know that Hardison makes costumes and gadgets on his weekends, and Parker scouts out banks and other potential targets' alarm systems and security measures. So what do Nate, Sophie and Eliot do on their weekends?

1.) An old movie serial technique, just to reset. 2) Big enough. 3.) Nate reads and drinks, Sophie flies to fabulous locations and hangs with grifter friends, Eliot works for Miranda Zero.

@Tom Galloway: Different tack. Does Hardison have any friends? I could be misremembering, but we've seen Nate's ex-wife, former work buddy Sterling, old friend who became a priest, Parker's mentor, Sophie's whatever connection to Tara, and folk from Elliot's past. But I don't think we've seen anyone who Hardison knew pre-Leverage other than Chaos, who hardly counts in the same way. Still think he and Parker should be hanging out at MIT a lot.

You will see some people from Hardison's past coming up. But to a great degree, Hardison's friends are not people who he physically spends time with.

I'm certain you've heard this story before, but when Cory Doctorow was lecturing in LA, I invited he and his awesome wife Alice to Lucha Vavoom one night. (I actually knew Alice slightly better then Cory at the time) Waiting with the tickets, outside in the crowd. I realized I had to call Alice and find out what they were wearing -- because although we'd been trading e-mails and blog references for months I had no idea what they looked like as humans.

@Lydia: 1) Any significance to Eliot wearing a white shirt at the beginning of the episode? After watching Lost, you start noticing stuff like that...2) During the briefing, why Sophie is twisting/playing with the ring on her finger? Some kind of nervous habit? 3)When Blackwell is sitting in corner of the corner watching Nate and Sophie, there's a guy sitting next to the coffee machine with is back to the camera who looks a lot like Eliot, who is supposed to be down in the mine. Is it really Christian sitting there because no one can see his face, or just an extra?

1.) Nope. Just remember Nate's Apartment is Purgatory and the Bar is a parallel timeline, and you'll be fine. 2.) I think Gina was just fiddling. Actors and their hands. 3.) An extra.

@Sarah: 1) We have diamond mines and coal mines that resonate w/ Eliot. More background that we're supposed to connect or purely coincidental? 2) Hardison grew up in foster care w/ 'Nana' (will she ever be referenced again? She kind of fell off the planet after s1) and no mention of any kind of father figure. Looks like he finally got his dose of "walking in on his parents" that he may have missed... 3) Suppose ParHardikerson, SoParphiker and HarEldisoniot each took on the Mof's SherWatlockson in a dark alley, who would win? Or would FoSterdling swoop in and claim victory?

1.) Two different parts of his background. 2.) Nana will show up. 3) To be fair, everyone in those pairings would be making out so hard, you could never resolve the fight.

@WWWweaves: This episode was really good. I want to know where the exterior of the mine scenes were shot. AND were the big digs roaming around in the final scene actual mining equipment or just what was 'around'? (Big Digs is what my nephew called all large yellow self-propelled machinery. Is there a better name for it?)

Shot just outside of Portland, at a quarry. We built the mine entrance on a hillside, and the equipment was the equipment onsite.

@Tori Angel: 1.) What area did you find that looks so much like Appalachia? I felt like I was home again! 2.) What are your feelings about TNT airing "The Rashomon Job" in a different order than you intended? Does it work? 3.)Does Eliot's aversion to hugs come from a general sense of wanting to keep his personal space (as I've been assuming) or his military history (as a hug may be a decent time to put a knife between someone's ribs)? 4.) Was it Sophie or Nate who coached Parker in the accent? It may not have been an Appalachian accent, per se (Sophie's in "Two-Horse" was WAY further south than KY), but at least it was consistent, which is (to me) the most important thing (and more than you can say for the cast of True Blood in its first season).

1.) That's the Oregon Film Commission earning its keep right there. 2.) "Rashomon" stands alone pretty well. We'll discuss in its write-up. 3.) He's not a hugger. 4.) Sophie.

@AliKatKaniac: 1. We've now seen Parker and Eliot both have mentor moments with a younger person. And Hardison kinda did with the vic on Double Blind. Is this because they're growing as people or developing more of a heart?
2. Eliot has made a few comments over the series that imply that he's from a working class family to the point where now I wonder if his family wasn't victimized by these types of people. (defending the miners, making comments in the Jailbreak Job about honest people, etc) Am I off base? You're hinting we're going to get some background story on him but how far back will this go?
3. Was Nate a 'normal' guy before his son died? He's been chasing Sophie for years and referred to her as his compass in The Maltese Falcon but that would have been during his marriage. We know his dad's past affected him, - how 'broken' was he already when his son died for him to go from criminal's son to seminary school to insurance agent.
4. As much as I LOVE this show there are two things that seem far-fetched - Eliot's injuries never land him in the hospital (other than a mention of a CT in The Tap Out Job) and the fact that everyone seems capable of doing anything. As much as we love Eliot's toughness, he got hit by a car and didn't even get a band-aid (Or even sympathy from Parker which btw LOL). And eventually there is going to be something he or the others can't do - so far he's able to excel at Baseball despite never having played it professionally, a singer - which yes, Christian Kane is but Eliot was not prior to that episode that we knew of, etc. Hardison can literally hack anything. Parker can do almost anything. You get where I'm going. I don't want to see my favorite team fail at things either but once in awhile it'd be more realistic to have one of them not be able to do something.

1.) Growing as people, and also, you're just seeing those cases. There are a lot fo cases, both broadcast and not, where that never happens. 2.) You will not see Wolverine run into the wood sin his poncey nightshirt. By which I mean, you will never learn about Eliot's childhood. You will, hoever, learn some rather nasty stuff about his past. 3.) Nate was always a broken guy living as an honest man. I think part fo the fun of the show is how you viewers interpret his journey to thief. 4.) Eliot's been nursing his wounds for a while now, and you could go through and pick out, in the 44 eps, where they've failed (and we never aid Eliot could THROW...), but you can generally chalk it up to Nate's planning. They rarely do jobs they;re not good at, because why would you assign that job to the person who can't do it?

@Jason Taylor: Where was Parker's bunny when she went to catch some soul-stealing rest in Lucille 2.0?

The Bunny does not leave the Lair. Ever.

@Donna: My question: What did Hardison say to Eliot after the hug that caused Eliot to smile at him? I went back and played it over and over but couldn't suss it out.

"For morale", a callback to their bonding in "Gone Fishing Job". I believe Aldis improv-ed that, which is why Kane cracked.

@Anonymous: 1.) My first question is will we ever see good character development in Nate?
As an aspiring writer myself when I create characters I want to see them succeed. Rock bottom isn't the end of their character development, or story lines. I understand that Nate isn't a good person, and will definitely get worse before he gets better. Will he get better is the question I’m asking. 2.) Also, will there ever be a season finale that doesn't focus mostly on Nate? More specifically I mean a season finale that comes about because of one of the other characters actions or choices, past or present. Thank you for the time you take in answering our questions :)

1.) Nate will continue to evolve, but who says Theif Nate isn't the Best Nate? What's that Chandler quote from "Simple Art of Murder"?:

"In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.

The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor -- by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world."

Maybe Nate's just the best man in his world?
2.) The S3 two-part finale focuses primarily on Eliot and Sophie.

@Kati: Did Maggie know anything about Sophie during their marriage? Even as simple as that's who Nate was chasing? And when exactly did Sam get sick enough to the point where Nate stopped working to be with him?
Maggie knew about Sophie, both through Nate and by rep. They'd actually met once or twice. Sam got too sick about two years before the show started. He died very quickly when that happened.
@Anonymous: I guess Nate and the audience won't get to know Sophie's real name this season since Nate has done nothing to deserve it, to win Sophie back. More like the opposite.
Heh. That would be incorrect.
@Blaze: Well, I have to say I'm finding this season really uneven. You guys are getting really sloppy. I realize our heroes are the best of the worst, but you still have to show some of the prep work and background "infrastructure" in these jobs. The hand waving of details is getting too broad in some episodes.
Sofie and Nate are the worst. Apparently the Power of the Grifter is so strong within them, that the marks will believe any horse crap thrown at them.
"We're from the Department of Bamboozlement. We'd like total access to your office/bank/mine."
"Uh...okey dokey."
"And we don't want you following us around. We want to privately muck with your computers."
"No problem...wait. I forgot to read the tag pinned to my suit. It sez 'don't forget to ask for ID and stuff.'"
And don't get me started on Hardistan's computer wizardry. It's a trap many different shows fall into. The computer hacker/genius can do ANYTHING from ANY computer he sits down at. People would scream in protest if Elliott blew a vault door off its hinges with one kick, but will nod along at Hardistan doing the equivalent superpowers with a keyboard.
I don't need to see extended scenes of handicraft time, making fake IDs. Or lengthy explanations of Hardistan's creation of fake computer backgrounds. But there needs to be an acknowledgement that this was done. If the villains are to have any sly and fiendish credibility, they have to make our heroes jump thru at least some basic hoops. I've been a keen fan of the show from the first episode, but this season...please pull up your socks.

I hate to be Captin Buzzkill, but the number of things we've shown Hardison do that you CAN'T do in real life is close to zero, particularly when he's using his own computer. When he's using other people's computers, he's running his own custom OS off a flash drive, which is what all the hackers are doing lately. We may well fall into the trap of making Sophie and Nate very effective at grifting, but then, again, it's probably because we're soaked in grifter research. We've had cases of dudes pretending to be federal agents. For MONTHS. Fooling the SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT. We've found cases of people conned into going to fake courtrooms for fake trials.

All we do is take away the boring bits. Your mileage may vary on the boring bits. I'll admit, there's always a struggle between "what is infrastructure?" and "what is competence porn?"

@la_ma: 2.) Clearly, something major is a brewing with Eliot and you seem way too excited about it. Since it will probably have already aired by the time you answer this question: is/was the intent to simply significantly develop/reveal the history of the character or is/was it to change our view of Eliot? (Clearly, he is THE fan fave, as Nate was in season 1 (or at least part of it). You made us loathe him, and so everyone was forced to pick a new fave, making it a true ensemble cast rather than the Nate and his team show)If you want our view of Eliot to change, WHY? (Please don't answer: 'I think you know why' I hate it when you do that:) Question 3) Not a shipper and really, really hate the unnecessary merging of two names...that said, I really want Parker and Hardison to hook up. Can/will that be done without feeling the need to add in relationship drama? I mean, can they have feelings, have sex, enjoy each other, but the show still be about the cons, or will we have to sit through scenes of 'discussing emotions'? Question 4) Hardison has been established as an extremely competent hack who obviously has cashed in on that skill. At least one flashback had him as a geek teen, presumably from a reasonable family. And he seems to have a conscious--like the kind of guy who, with a glimpse or two at the effect of his thievery on (good/innocent) others would have redirected his skills. What am I missing?

1.) cut for clarity, moving on to 2.) It was to showcase another reason why somebody might choose the redemption arc. Nate is, to a great degree, fueled by vengeance. That is a very destructive, non-growth motivation. We've never really explained why Eliot is still with these people, and this will help. I didn't think we were making people loathe Nate, though. Just acknowledge he puts the "anti" in "antihero". 3.) God, I hope so. But trust me, there will never be "The First Date Job." 4.) Hardison comes from a different moral framework. People With Power hurt the people around him. But there's a reason he chose the most legitimately "victimless" crime field.

@briddie: Isn't Parker exceeding her dresses-per-season quota? Or am I confusing that with Eliot's suits-per-season rule?

Suits per season. And we only count evening gowns. The S1 finale dress really sets the bar on that one.

@Piratecat: From a friend, via Facebook - "Please explain to me, from this week's ep, why blowing up his mine would aid the owner with his plan to harvest the coltan? Made no sense to us." To that I'll add that the owner slugging Nate didn't make any sense. I could see him killing him to save air, but knocking him out seemed a bit odd. I' too, was surprised by their lack of hard hats. Thanks, John!

1.) He needed to harvest the coltan under another corporate identity, and needed the worker's payrolls to close the deal with Nate. It was an insurance scam, not related to the coltan. We could have made that clearer. 2.) He was actually about to kill him when Eliot intervened. Again, we could have cut that different. Looking back at it, that's very unclear.

@Kris: I don't mean anything really specific like "did Eliot have X or Y experience." I mean, rather, is he starting to feel anything like a prodigal son? Does he feel like his enlistment (or whatever) was somehow immature? Not in a general "joining the Army for adventure is silly" kind of way, but for him personally, as if maybe instead of liberating Croatia he should've found a way to fix problems closer to home.
Objectively speaking, I'd guess that for whatever reasons with which we're not familiar, if he'd stayed home he would not have in fact been in a position to exert the sort of power he can now. But that wouldn't necessarily make him feel better about "running away" (if that was indeed any part of his emotional motivation for taking up his line of work).
I guess what I'm trying to ask, in a really rambling way, is, would it be a stretch to suppose that the "thawing" of Eliot Spencer can be traced all the way back to Two-Horse? Despite the fact that being interrogated about the whereabouts of a monkey was a pretty legit reason not to have been in contact with Aimee, has he been wondering this whole time if her anger was not merely understandable but right in ways even she might not have known?

Well, somebody's been paying attention.

@T.J.: Lots of questions on this one - I'll separate them into chunks....

A)Purchase your own politician-
This is another case where buying an politician is better than doing the actual work so I wanted to know if you could fill me in on the
Attorney General vs Congressman comparison
Which is...
....cheaper?
....more effective? (bang for your buck)
....more wrong/evil?
....more useful
....more likely to make Hardison throw up a little in his mouth?

B)Parker: Baby Grifter
Will Parker ever be the head of a con?

C) Scary Sophie
How do the marks miss the "You are digusting" tones i.e. Sophie's "You're going to make a lot of bucks" I know it's T.V. but she gave me chills. Do marks not have a sense of self-presevation?

D)Eliot the Miner
Why is it always Eliot who gets lost in the con (baseball, singing, coal mining?) Do you chose him on purpose or does it just happen organically?

A.) Senators, actually, are the best value for your dollar. Disproportionate influence in a a fundamentally undemocratic institution. Lacking that, you really want to jump down into the AG and judges of your state.

B.) That ... is literally the most important question in the show.

C.) They are blinded by greed. And her hotness.

D.) Although Eliot really doesn't go more whole hog than Hardison, you just tend to remember those moments. You could argue t's because, when grifting, he actually relaxes and has a little fun.

Whew. Okay, I'm going to crash, and MAYBE I catch up before the Christmas episode. We start shooting the new pilot Wed, and I make no promises. As always, thanks for watching and reading.

62 comments:

theragingcelt said...

New Pilot?
"Raised Eyebrow"

Rob Pugh said...

"Eliot works for Miranda Zero" = WIN.

Sara said...

Does anyone else find the image of John Rogers and Matt Nix genially giving each other shit about their respective shows to be inexplicably delightful?

Because really. That is awesome. And kind of adorable.

(Burn Notice and Leverage are two of my three favorite shows right now, so maybe that's why.)

Thanks again for these posts! They are spectacular.

Sarah W said...

@Rob Pugh:

Oh, yeah. I got goosebumps.

Anonymous said...

I changed my mind. Said the last time that you don't seem to like Nate/Sophie very much. Well, I appreciated all the answers about them in this post-game. It explained your view of their relationship progress this season and you're right, you have given us quite a few amazing shippy, if I may say, Nate/Sophie scenes so far but I always want more of those two. Can't wait for the Sophie focus in the finale and to learn her real name! Thank you!

Red said...

I miss this show. thanks for the post-games.

DHS said...

In my mental world, Leverage and Burn Nitice share a universe.

Re: "I'm from the Department of Bamboozlement", there was the guy who, until caught, would call up fast food restaurants from a payphone, claim to be from corporate or the local PD or a Federal agency, and convince the manager on the line to do hideous, insane things like raping employees as part of a search for drugs or embezzled cash. He did this for about a DECADE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strip_search_prank_call_scam

Also, your best value per dollar is almost always going to be local officials and inspectors, because the price is just so, so low compared to the profit available.

Marie said...

Thanks for answering our questions!
Love that you're giving us little hints of stuff that'll happen in the finale without giving too much away.

Re loathing Nate. I wouldn't go that far, but this season I have come pretty close. I already didn't like him before Scheherezade, but after he hypnotized Hardison without his consent (which is the important part) I really dislike him and I don't think I can forgive him for that.

At this point I'm watching the show despite him (I skip his scenes when I rewatch my DVDs), and would have stopped watching after Scheherezade if the trio hadn't been there.

Jay said...

At the same time, if I had to write what he had to write every week, I'd put a gun in my mouth. "Michael, my Yoga instructor's second cousin's niece got involved with meth dealers. You have to help her."

You mean my geek dream of having John Rogers write/direct an episode of Burn Notice centered around Sam Axe will never happen? *sigh*

ldlewild said...

John, thank you again! Always cool to get the inside perspective. I'll also go ahead and say thanks for the ominous hints of things to come, even if it's going to drive me bonkers wondering...

Matt Nix and John Rogers having lunch...the TV geek in me is ridiculously happy right now.

And Jay, I think your idea is awesome.

gwangung said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kris said...

Thanks as always, Rogers!

Incidentally, I realized from one of Aldis Hodge's recent tweets that Leverage comes back just in time for my university's finals week. Whether it will provide a much needed respite from my work or just cripple what little momentum I currently have, I'm not sure...

Courtney said...

@Sara
I agree. I find the image of John and Matt giving each other shit about their respective shows absolutley delightful.
Now I'm just waiting on the cross-over. Can you imagine the possibilities?

adc1966 said...

(Oops... posted this under the wrong post first time.)

As you all know, I believe the government is best that governs least.

I prefer to say "the government is best that governs exactly as much as it has to... no more, and no less."

Sophie's been schooling Parker off and on for three years now.

Is that what they're calling it these days? :-)

(As a SoParphiker fan, I feel much more at peace than all those frustrated Nate/Sophie shippers. The secret is to choose a 'ship that you know will never, ever, ever be addressed in canon. Then you never have to be disappointed!)

Eliot works for Miranda Zero.

Gnnrrgl... Sorry, just drooled on myself a bit with Story Lust.

IMForeman said...

Re: "Thief Nate is the Best Nate." Just rewatching the show in batches as I occasionally do, I came to that conclusion myself. Like that this is the Nate that was always just lurking under levels of self-denial.

For years he struggled hard to not become his father. He joined the priesthood, to try and get as far away from his father as he could, but that didn't hold.

Then he tried a career that married the illicit things he learned from his Dad to a righteous pursuit of criminals, essentially punishing people like his Dad. And balancing that on trying to be a good husband and a better father may have lasted a while even in the best possible circumstances.

Somehow, I think that if Sam hadn't gotten sick, there would have been a scene with Sam at the age of 16 or 17 storming out of a room saying "I'm sick of your mind games, Dad!" And while that relationship may not have ever got quite as contentious as Jimmy and Nate's relationship, Sam may have have gotten the business end of Nate's inherent control issues and manipulation one too many times to call them close if he had reached that far.

That said, I'm certain Nate would have preferred to be a lesser Nate if it meant Sam got to be old enough to resent him.

David Hunt said...

Eliot works for Miranda Zero.

Funny you should mention that. About a year ago I was playing in a Savage Worlds campaign that involved a whole lot of dimension hopping and we were given a good deal of carte blanche to come up with character conceptions. I chose a character heavily based on Eliot Spencer…assuming that he’d never met Nate Ford and hooked up with Miranda Zero’s outfit instead. I named the character Warren Ellis for obvious reasons.

wv tricid: ed cid and his two clones.

mrmike said...

I have for quite some time had the sig line "Miranda Zero knows where the monkey is" on a particular message board dedicated to TV-ish stuff. I'm glad to see I was correct.

Stacy said...

@ John Rogers 1.) You ain't seeing that frilly fan again.


It wasn't the fan so much as the boots. He was damn hot in them. **sigh**

Brad said...

Regarding loathing Nate, I was talking over his character with a writer and fangirl friend, and we came to an interesting conclusion.

As we all know, there's a popular character type commonly known as "the woobie", the guy who's very tough and competent and emotionally closed off, but then turns out to have a hidden side few people get to see, where he's sensitive and wounded and has a soft spot. You can get some good stories out of a woobie, and of course he's pure fangirl bait.

Nate is, on some levels, a reverse woobie. On the surface, he's a loving, wounded, kind man who cares deeply about others, who loved his wife and son more than anything, and will always miss them. But as we've gotten to know him better, we've discovered that underneath all that, he has his hidden side, which is an unbelievable bastard.

It's a ballsy and original piece of character structuring, and I think it's scrambling some folks' sensors.

T.J. said...

I think he means new pilot like the season premiere. Earlier in this blog, he said each premiere was a like a smaller pilot to get new people watching the series. A more straightforward con, where we got a clear and general idea of what Leverage was about and how the team works. Like the first scene in the Jailhouse house job, everyone was doing their particular skill during Sophie's imaginary escape plan. Or the Beantown Bailout job where everyone had almost literally been placed on reset.

I'm still wondering about the whole Parker thing. That question I wrote as a throwaway because I was just curious. Now I really want to know about how that fits into the whole mythology of the show. Any ideas?

kimshum said...

Nah, by "new pilot" he means Brain Trust, an hourlong for TBS, set to shoot 12/8/10 in Portland. Logline: "An old school detective teams with a group of brilliant, but sheltered academics to solve crimes." Should probably read that script, since it's shooting and all...

And December used to seem so far away.

Oona said...

Uh, where is this idea that "everyone" loathes Nate coming from?

I love Nate, and so do many others in the fandom. I love the full five (this is the ONLY ensemble show where I like every character), but he and Parker are my favorites, and he's easily one of the more complex characters on TV right now. I've made the comparison before, but he's motherflippin awesome the way Don Draper is - the writers aren't afraid to make him flawed and let his flaws drive the action.

(Brad - the reverse woobie is a great characterization, BTW!)

Without Nate, there would be no crew. He can be a bastard, but that's what the leader of a crew of thieves and grifters needs to be at times. Mr McSweetiePants is not gonna work there.

And the fact that he's usually the smartest guy in the room and hates bullies - even if he can sometimes be one - is enough to keep him sympathetic and interesting to me.


Love the Chandler reference, by the way, JR. One of my two favorite Raymonds (Carver's up there too).

Anonymous said...

"Eliot works for Miranda Zero."

Jesus, that hurts.

T.J. said...

Ooh, cool. Does anyone else know anything about it? From what little I've found out since that post, I know D.B. Sweeney is starring but I haven't found anymore cast information. Anybody else got more information?

T.J. said...

@ Brad - I'm a big T.V. Tropes fan. Before you follow the Woobie Link see the T.V. Tropes Warning here.
The reverse woobie is known as the Jerkass Woobie. You are definitely right - it's Nate all the way. In my personal opinion, Nate is pretty awesome, but he crosses the line a lot. I think the best thing that could happen to him is that the team pulls something completely ruthless on him - just so he knows exactly how it feels. Rogers said that Nate (My first instinct has been to 3 Card Monte Nate's name to Nathan. It's killing my typing.) wouldn't do anything to the team that he wasn't willing to go through himself, so I think they should put him through what he does to them sometimes and really test that theory

P.S. Sorry for the double post. I was reading a response to an earlier post and hadn't finish looking at the other comments.

Jay said...

Can you imagine the possibilities?

Fiona and Parker on a rampage? Eliot and Sam brawling back-to-back? Sophie and Michael talking their way into (and out of) everywhere they go?

Yeah, I can see that.

SueN. said...

I'm with Oona; I have never loathed Nate. I have cussed him, gnashed my teeth over him and wanted to bitchslap him countless times, but I have never once loathed him.

Really, how is he any worse, objectively, than the people around him? Sophie rips people off and sees nothing wrong with it. Parker steals without remorse. Hardison steals via computer. Eliot beats the crap out of people and, by Rogers' own admission, has killed.

How is it worse that Nate's not a likable guy?

Nope, no loathing here. I adore Nate. Even – especially – when I want to pinch his head off. ;)

Video Beagle said...

by Rogers' own admission, has killed.

By his first scene in Episode 2 where he and his soon to be dead partner are disposing bodies.

Elliot was a hired gun..he's a bad bad man.

Robin said...

"...when Cory Doctorow was lecturing in LA, I invited he and his awesome wife Alice to Lucha Vavoom..."

Name dropper. :p It is really weird encountering one's "imaginary internet friends" (as I call them) in person. They're never quite what I expect based solely on textual interaction.

"(and we never aid Eliot could THROW)"

Ah, but it was demonstrated in both 'Homecoming' and 'Lost Heir' with his rock-throwing accuracy. Not that I quibble with Eliot's physical prowess. Dude's coordinated, and that translates to all sorts of things, including baseball.

@Sara: "Does anyone else find the image of John Rogers and Matt Nix genially giving each other shit about their respective shows to be inexplicably delightful?"

I find it immensely entertaining, and wonder if Jeff Eastin from White Collar (who is also good friends with Nix) ever gets in on the fun.

@IMForeman: "That said, I'm certain Nate would have preferred to be a lesser Nate if it meant Sam got to be old enough to resent him."

That's really beautifully said, man. ::sniff::

@Brad & T.J. -- re: Nate as "reverse/jackass woobie"

I love it! As a multiple-woobie-having fangirl myself, this is a fantastic explanation of our Nate. So, so broken and yet that's what makes him so compelling. I don't actively loathe him, but there are times when I certainly don't like his behavior very much.

WV: uniti -- battle cry of a dyslexic Jawa

SueN. said...

@Video Beagle, that scene may actually be exactly when I fell in love with Eliot. Crushes a guy's windpipe, and answers the phone. Just unrepentant badassery right there.

In LeverageWorld, there's a Wikileaks dump coming on Eliot Spencer alone.

Rob Pugh said...

Brain Trust sounds interesting, but I'll admit there was a part of me hoping for a Jaime Reyes, Geoff Johns penned Blue Beetle pilot that had flown under the radar.

Thomas said...

I can't believe it took me until now to make the Hardison-MIT connection. He would totally click with their "hackers" (pranksters), and probably the Assassin's Guild (the LARP club).

xjill said...

@ T.J.
http://www.thefutoncritic.com/devwatch/brain-trust-tbs/

Good luck John! And LMAO at Matt's "WE'RE LEVERAGE!"

Kris Dow said...

3) To be fair, everyone in those pairings would be making out so hard, you could never resolve the fight.

That comment right there made me laugh so much it made up for the entire beginning of my week. (Finals + final projects for senior year college stuff on top of a migraine that Would Not Die.)

Although I admit, the fact that there is new Leverage coming up also doesn't hurt.

Lady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lady said...

Loathe Nate?

Nope, can't do it. I've been a fan of Timothy Hutton for too many years. All you young things can fight over Christian Kane, I'll take Tim. :)

I don't loathe Nate but there are times when I'd like to kick him. I think he needs someone to tell him when he's going too far and Sophie and Eliot fill that role. neither one of them are afraid of him and are perfectly willing to tell him what they think.

Shelley

Stacy said...

@Lady

Hey now, no bogarting of The Hutton. He was one of my first crushes after I saw Falcon & Snowman way back in the mid 80s.

**wonders why parents allowed me to warp my little mind on a R rated movie way back then**

Dawn/StL-MO said...

JOHN – No one’s asked yet so…..

“Maggie knew about Sophie, both through Nate and by rep. They'd actually met once or twice.”

If Sophie met Maggie when she was married to Nate, why did NEITHER of them recognize the other in “The First David Job?”

Always appreciate you taking time, especially during your ‘hiatus’ to feed our inquiring minds.

Dawn/StL-MO

Dawn/StL-MO said...

Michael Urie (Ugly Betty) will be in ‘Brain Trust’. Here are some articles

http://bit.ly/i78z6J ; http://bit.ly/hF3pim;
http://bit.ly/h503eC

John -
Any chanceTaggert & McSweeten will show up on ‘Brain Trust’????

Dawn/StL-MO

Dawn/StL-MO said...

On above post about Brain Trust: on 2nd URL, the semi-colon is NOT part of URL - Sorry!

Dawn/StL-MO

rashid1891 said...

Well, you don't have to go far for the bad guy here. The headlines were all over the place as we were breaking this episode -- indeed, it was one of the few times Dean sent us an email asking "We're doing this one, right?"

Geoff Thorne said...

I KNEW eliot was on the Frequency! AWESOME!

Modern day Molly Brown said...

Thank you for taking time to answer questions and wax poetic John Rogerism's. Plus I wanted my post to appear under Geoff Thorne's post. Just sayin'.

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Anonymous said...

I like Nate. I like him BECAUSE he's a fucked up, drunk asshole. Just saying.

HHGT said...

Re-watched Underground Job, and only *just* realised Cory lied about his age to Eliot. He's 16, right? Not 18, like he told Eliot?

Because he says his dad died in the explosion two years ago, but his dad told Troy (sp?) that Cory's 14th birthday is coming up right before walking into the explosion.

I suppose that's what you're referring to when you said "[Eliot]'s acutely aware of dumb choices young men who lie about their age make"?

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