Wednesday, September 07, 2011

LEVERAGE #402 "The Ten L'il Grifters Job" Answer Post

I can only console you (and myself) by deciding that these long delays were my clever plan all along, so that we'd have something to talk about during hiatus.

This episode pitch came from the actors, actually.  They'd been kicking around stuff they wanted to do, and "fight crime while wearing rad costumes" was apparently near the top of everyone's list.  To be fair, I think they had the infinitely more adult and original "run a con during a murder mystery party" idea -- but without costumes, what's the whole point of that?  Bonus points: combining the "classic murder mystery" with "costumed con" forced us to not run "costumed con" in superhero costumes.  Considering the fixation several members of the staff had with putting Parker in a Supergirl outfit, that was probably for the best.

(FWIW, it should probably be -- Eliot/Wolverine; Parker/any Gail Simone character, probably Batgirl; Hardison would want to be John Stewart GL but we'd make him Spiderman; Sophie / Zatanna; Nate/Nick Fury.  I assume you will fill the Comments with endless discussions of both "characters/characters" and "actors/characters" matches.)

This is a good example for our Spec Monkeys,  of premise vs. execution.  "Run a con during a murder mystery party" is a perfectly good pitch.  But now how do you execute it?  In our cons, each team member wears what we call "the hats", the roles inherent in the scenario they're working in.  One of the good signs of a pitch is when it instantly generates hats.

Look at "The Stork Job", which began as a monumentally depressing Eastern European adoption scam episode.  When we figured out what we'd need to find the kid -- the movie -- that secondary scenario kicked free the hats: Eliot/producer, Hardison/SFX, Nate/Director, we got to touch on Sophie's acting, and do backstory on Parker.  That is one dense goddam episode, I'll tell you that.  Still one of my favorites.

... sidebar.  I wonder if the dark, always "night" setting in the old offices subconsciously pushed us into different tones and launch scenes for the show versus the very bright Nate living room.  It had a dreamlike quality that lent itself to the darker flashbacks, like Parker's childhood reveal in that episode.

The nature of the briefing scenes is something we've always struggled with, even going into our fifth season.  For example, I was not fond of the "couch" setup in Season two.  It tended to suck momentum.  But at the same time, it reinforced the very family vibe that we touched on all the way back in the pilot and that's been the backbone of the show. Looking at the set as it is now, I don't know how we'd block that scene in "The Future Job" where Parker comes home freaked out after the cold reader's cracked her past.  She needs to be in that living room, surrounded by her loved ones.  Maybe we'd do it in the back room of the bar now?  Not sure ... anyway, good example of how TV shows evolve constantly.  Or "fail to establish consistency through clarity of vision", if you want to take the negative view.  There are days I would sacrifice a staff writer for a reliable template.

(I can't remember the source for this, so I'll claim I invented it: "Movies are planned.  Television happens.")

... Right, back to "Ten Grifters".  What are the hats during a murder mystery party?  Planner, guest, uhhhh, waiter ... yeah.  That gets thin fast. And the tension in one of those parties tends to come from the hunt for a fictional murderer.  Not that gripping.  The pitch, at this point, is going a bit south on us.

So Geoff Thorne, writer of the fantastic "The Inside Job", decided to embrace the murder mystery aspect whole-heartedly.  We will do a classic murder mystery inside a party designed to ape classic murder mysteries. A bit meta, but hey, that's what fourth season's for.

Now, let's follow the first pitch path, where somebody else murdered the mark while our guys investigate, with our team not implicated.  Our team's trying to solve a murder mystery while running a con -- but why?  And what's the ticking clock?  If the cops are coming, all they have to do is slip out before the police arrive, and they're out -- after all, they would have appeared in cover stories, so there'd be no trace back to them.

No, that means one of our guys needs to be implicated.  Publicly.  We must have stakes in solving the murder before the police arrive.  And let's face it, in modern days of cell phones, the cops would arrive toute suite.

That led us to Nate being accused as the murderer, and gave us the parallel plotlines.  Our mid-show complication became running the stall, which would fall to Sophie.  Nate couldn't investigate , which meant Eliot had to switch roles.  Always fun.  That left Hardison and Parker on the original treasure hunt, which took advantage of the "spooky old house" tropes. (NOTE: You say "trope", I say "well-honed story tool.")

This also allowed us to set up one of Nate's issues this year -- his growing frustration at the sheer endless wall of bastardry that they deal with. This season Nate is both dealing with his anger and perhaps, more dangerously, becoming comfortable with it.  Would Nate, in a moment of weakness, cross the line?  Or even, worse, would he coldly and deliberately cross that line, because he decided that this one had it coming?  Would he actually kill one of these sonsabitches?  He didn't kill the man who he held responsible for the death of his son ... but that Nate Ford is not today's Nate Ford.  And today's Nate Ford is not necessarily a better man that Season One.  Not necessarily worse, either, just different.

A lot to cram into your fun little comedy meta-episode, eh?  Anyway, Geoff dove in and wrote a classic whodunnit, with lighting flashes and multiple suspects and an offered three-way.  You know, the classics.  Casting about for costumes that would both be strong choices (and would clear), we landed on classic detectives -- and that led us straight to Tim homaging his father's role as Ellery Queen.

Geoff gave Nate the line I said in the writer's room. "Ellery Queen is America's greatest detective."  I love Chandler and Hammett and Block and Ross MacDonald,  don't get me wrong.  But Ellery is my detective, the one who knocked me on my ass at age 12.  As soon as this idea hit the table, I actually jumped up to call Hutton and ask if he'd be cool with it.  (Thank God he was, because making him Holmes would have been so hacky.)  When you watch the performance, its a bit boggling; he's even got his father's rhythms down in the reveal scene at the end. It's just one of those nice little Easter Eggs for fellow mystery fans.

My only regret is that we really didn't have the time in 42 minutes to really do classic misleads when tied into a single location.  There's a reason most cop shows start with a dead body -- motives are then folded into the investigative arc storyline.  The investigative arc is a discovery mystery, in which the audience cannot possibly figure out who the killer was ahead of the detectives because they only get the relevant clues at the same time as the detective.   As much as I love PSYCH and CASTLE, you can't solve them before their detectives do, because their job is to find the clues.  Their goal is not to solve the equation, their goal is to find the clues which when plugged in will automatically solve the equation for them.  Their clues lead to other clues, more significant clues.  Like, you know, real detective work.

But if you want the classic drawing room scene, you need to have the detective assemble clues that we've seen scattered about the setting.  That means clues we've seen before the murder, too.  Layer in our victim scene, intake, briefing, setting up the con -- well, there's a reason, as a Holmes buff friend of mine remarked, that MYSTERY does these things in 90 minutes.

All said -- a lovely little offspeed, with Costume Designer Nadine Haders building her case for an Emmy with those great detective costumes. (Add in her work on "The Van Gogh Job" and really.  Really.  Just give her the damn thing.)  We built the order of the first five of the season very carefully, which we will discuss when we get to episode five.

Okay, your questions.  From two months ago.  Well, I'll assume most fo you are still kicking around.  As always, for you new folks -- I haven't looked at these yet.  I type the answers as I read them.

@The Goozer:  When are they going to steal a chalice?  Or stop a human sacrifice?

Next season, when magic returns to the Leverage-verse, and we finally get the Supernatural crossover you people have been whinging about endlessly.

@Mercedes A: Is Hardison supposed to be A Hardy Boy in this episode? Cause, wow that is hysterical!!!


He is both Hardy Boys at once, combining the keen mental powers of Frank with the sensuality of Joe.


@Jen Erickson: I own a copy of "Dreamnasium". Can I get it autographed by Geoffrey
Thorne? I hear you may know him. It would have a place of honor next to my autographed Leverage mug. Looking  forward to the Leverage version of Clue!


Tag him at his author page on Amazon.  I'm sure he'll think of something.


@Video Beagle: Foul!  Nate should have gone as Archie Goodwin!


As great as that was, been there, done that.


@Anonymous: More of a general question, since the ep just started, but how much instruction/planning does Nate handle when sending the team out on a straight out job? Is it like, "Parker, Eliot, break into the records room," or is it, "Eliot, you will be the janitor. Parker will hide in the garbage can. You will do [this], go [here], singnal [this way]. Eliot will cover Parker while she does [this], and give [this] as a signal if there is a problem..."? I'm thinking it's more the first but Nate is such a control freak, you never know.

They plan, and run it by him to see if he thinks everyone's plan will interlock.  They have a fair amount of freedom to handle their specialties.

@Video Beagle: Oooh, someone finally called out on Hardison's use of real names for Ids as in-world references.  Though I thought Nate's record was erased. Guess not.

Yeah, although I am always amused by the number of you people who assume anyone but you people would know who Yma Sumac, or the Avengers, erc, etc, were.

Everyone's record was cleared in Season Two EXCEPT Nate, and at the end of S3 only his jailbreak prison record was wiped.  Theres a lot of loose chuffa in the Interpol files.  You can thank Sterling for that.

@Miranda: I felt bad for Nate at the end of the show. The team are the only friends the guy has and they doubted him.

They doubted him because they know him, because he's the only friends he has.

@Wesley Gibson: Who thought of the flashback skit with Hardison being there when Halle Berry won an Oscar for best actress? Pure comedic gold.

Geoff Thorne.

@Brave: Also from that ending is Nate more upset that everyone thought he was capable of murder or that He himself thinks he's capable of murder?

Super good question.  Super good.  Answer's probably coming in November/December.

@Zenkitty (and others): 1.) I can't believe anyone thought Nate killed him! Killing Beck would have messed up a simple grab-and-get-out scheme, and left him trapped on an island with his victim. Even if Nate meant to kill someone, he wouldn't have done it so stupidly as that. Besides, Nate wants the bad guys punished, not dead.  2.) Eliot seems to be especially put out with Nate this season. What's up?

1.) They are worried about his impulse control.  That has not been an unknown problem in the past.  The intention here is not to make you ask "why does the team think Nate could kill?, it's to place into text "The team thinks Nate might be at the point where he could kill someone.  That's serious."

2.) Eliot's not really that put out, he's just annoyed at Nate constantly forgetting to put his own welfare into the equation.  Eliot's job is to get everybody out alive.  Nate's plans do not always line up with that goal.

@Anonymous: I'd like to know when Elliot is going to have his 'Come to Jesus' talk with Nate? And what will be the repercussions of that talk?

In the season finale, and it's not the talk you think it is.

@Sarah W: How many times is Nate going to hit bottom before he cleans up? He touches on the possible root of his problems in #401 (when he warns the client about revenge), so he appears to be aware that there IS a problem -- but that obviously doesn't mean he can fix it. Or will. Will he?

When did Nate hit bottom?  I always count "My name is Nate Ford, and I'm a thief" as a victory for Nate, a sudden moment of clarity.  He's a functioning alcoholic.  He's good at his job.  His job is being a bastard.  But there's a conversation Nate has in, ah ... winter episode order is fluid right now, but Nate has a conversation with Hardison that will answer your question, I think.


@Mihir: 1.) Right, i've got to ask. A while back, you said that Eliot hasn't killed on screen. So was the Butcher of Kiev just knocked out? Same for Quinn (Was the the dude in the Series 1 penultimate ep?)? Because i'd have assumed that Eliot would have just gotten rid of him, especially as that was Quinn's job... 2.) Just something that's been bothering me - Hardison was so hurt that Eliot left him to drown for such a long time in 3.15, how does he get over that and start working with him again, let alone hug him?! Does Eliot see Hardison as a true friend?

1.) Both of those characters are alive.  Very.  Alive.  2.)  In the Commentaries, you can here Christian explain that he played that scene as Eliot getting ready to kill everyone in that room to get Hardison, but being very, very aware of how long a healthy man can hold his breath.  Assume Eliot explained that to Hardison, and they're cool.  Brothers -- even ones who don;t like each other all the time -- work shit out.

@workworkwork: Let me also put in my thanks to whomever decided that Parker would be going as Nancy Drew.

I'll pass it along to Geoff.

@chelle: So the coms work on airplanes and throughout the rooms of the mansion, but don't go through the plaster/wood lath of the secret passages? Hmmm. And why blueprints (no one has used them for years)? Just for dramatic effect? Or is he such a bad contractor that he doesn't use computers or CAD?

Go back, we mention that the house interiors are reinforced with metal, screwing with the signal.  And the blueprints are for dramatic effect -- even we get tired of those interminable flash drives.

@Stephanie: 1.) It seems Nate is more and more trying to do everybody else's jobs while having a harder and harder time doing his own. How close is he going to get to finding himself a one-man show? 2.) And have you used that office building before? The Reunion Job, maybe? Or do tall lobbies with lots of glass just make excellent places to shoot?

1.) We've ... toyed with the idea of a one-man Nate con.  It hasn't gone away entirely, but would be part of a bigger suite of episodes.  There's a half-stepped variant in this winter's "The Boys' Night Out Job."

2.) No, new building.  And yes, glass and steel make for good shooting.  Depth.

@msd: So Nate just calls Bonanna up and tells him "this is Nate Ford"? Have they come to some level of d├ętente?

More than detente.  Nate brought down the man who tried to kill Bonanno, after all.  They've formed one of the traditional vigilante/cop friendships so common in corrupt systems.  And the Leverage-verse is corrupt.

@Famous4it: 1.)Who was in on the plan? The cop, daughter and 'lug', or just the daughter and cop? 2.) How on earth did she convince him to help her murder her father? Riches? Should we just accept that he's a man with his own back-story that's made him the murderous, dirty cop he is today?  3. Or was he just sick of drawing the short straw ;) 4.) Parker believed Nate right away, Eliot didn't quite and Sophie and Hardison were in between. Does this reflect their trust in Nate, or do they believe Nate, especially drunk Nate is capable of anything?

The cop is the "lug" in this case.  And she convinced him with feminine wiles and sweet cash.  Which has worked in the past.  4.) Ah, good question. I think it's more that even now, these are inherently suspicious people.

@pattyv02: The large house/ mansion Parker was referring to in the Phil. was it Imelda Marcos'?:)) And I'd like to congratulate you for the successful awesome ep. though I felt quite unsatisfied with the Nate and Sophie thing.,, mind telling us if they're gonna grow into more than what they are(the a little more than friends who went to bed together)? I mean yes its obvious that they have feelings for each other, which is quite something that many of us fans love.. so I really how they grow into something much more than what i described. I hope Nate gets his act together, to satisfy the NATE AND SOPHIE fans..

1.) Yes, Imelda Marcos.  2.) Oh, you Nophies.  Sate's?  What's your word?  Anyway, as you can see, it definitely goes somewhere.  Whether it survives the traumatic season finale is the question ...

@Scooter5203249: General question, not related to the ep - are scripts delivered to the actors on paper or digitally to their iPads or whatever brand of tablet?

Paper, because revision pages with paper are still easier. I like paper so I can scrawl notes on the side. We do offer full pdf scripts and revisions, and Dean, for example, reads (and annotates!) all the scripts on his iPad.  

@Sherri: Ok, another "there's a question in here somewhere" -- Hardison. Now, Parker takes a lot of her emotional cues from Hardison and Sophie, but she's never really had a problem with Nate, but Hardison has shown he DOES have some, and they are growing, and they remind me ever so much of the problems Nate has with his own father. I am going back to the Scheherazade Job with this and the subsequent "mind games" Nate is playing -- to shape Hardison into another mastermind? I mean, Jimmy was trying to make Nate in his own ruthless, hard-assed, mean, tough image but he started in on a small child and did damage. Hardison, for all his hacking ways and his bitching/whining, is emotionally pretty resilient. I don't think he sees it that Nate IS teaching him (yet) and that the father/son vibe is taking on solid echoes of the Jimmy/Nate one.  You know, of course, as a writer, that when you can get your audience thinking this much and this long about what you've written, you've done a proper good job, yes?

That relationship is definitely evolving in almost exactly the way you've noted. We address it in "The Gold Job", which is the Winter season ep I referenced earlier.  And thanks for the complement, but that's all the writers working their asses off.  I just drink and yell about index cards.

@MagzMC: 1.) Quick canon question, has Nate killed before? As an insurance cop (a justified one of course, he was an honest man back then) or in self defence for example. Or has he only killed by proxy via Eliot's actions in The Big Bang Job. 2.) And if he hasn't killed anyone yet is the day approaching when he might have to or might choose to?

1.) No.  2.) Yes.

@dogdragon86: 1.) Who was exactly from the Pinkertons was Elliot supposed to be? 2.) Are tired of answering the people who wanted Nate to be Archie? 3.) Could you ever write a Leverage Stage play? 4.) Any little tips from aspiring writers?

1.)  Charlie Siringo 2.)  I adore them. 3.) Hell no.  4.) Write every day and keep a notebook of ... stuff that catches your fancy.  Relevant to what you're writing.  Whatever.  I use Evernote.

@Lydia: 1. Did Tim ask to play Ellery Queen, or was that the brilliance of the writers at work?
2. Do you have a Guinness, as you do for the commentary, when you’re typing up the answers to our numerous questions? Are you ever surprised by some of the theories we come up with?
3. (S3 question - I sincerely apologize for not thinking of it at the time, but this has been bugging the hell out of me). Where did the character name/alias Dr. Wes Abernathy come from, was it inspired by the Abernathy bridge (which just so happens to be a mile or so upriver from where the Ice Man Job was filmed)?

1.) We asked Tim if he was cool with it, but then he totally took over and made it perfect.  2.) I am distressingly sober.  And you people always surprise me.  What I love is when one of you will guess a giant character beat that's coming, and then kind of gloss over it with techie questions. 3.) Wes Abernathy i think was just a name that cleared.  It's in two scripts I wrote, so I may well just be using a name form my childhood I've forgotten the provenance of.

@bluehex: One thing surprised me, though: Eliot's sudden problem with grifting. I mean, you said yourself, he's the second best grifter in the team after Sophie. He did use the skill a number of times already - The Snow Job, The Tap Out Job - so how come he's suddenly so uncomfortable with it and needs to "adjust"? He forgot he knew how-to?

He's not really aware of how good he is at it.  And he dislikes puttering about with investigations.  That was someone else's job in the military unit he was in, where they were all code-named as ... no, you'll figure it out.

@Mrs. Sunshine: 1- Why did Parker know about dimensions and architecture?  2- Does Hardison ALWAYS carry a laptop (plus multiple cables, his smartphone, etc...) around?  3- I've always noticed that every little thing you see during the episodes is important to understand the con and the result of it (for example when Parker goes into the kitchen where the mark's daughter is making out with the guy). My question is: How do you come up with everything so that it fits perfectly?

1.) As we've seen, she rotates objects in space well.  She likes houses, since she breaks into them -- has a feeling for them like a music fan has for musical styles.  2.) As you've by now seen in "The Cross Your Heart Job", yes. 3.) Very hard-working staff and a lot of index cards.  We try, we do not always succeed, but thank you for your kind words.

@theimecraft: again with the Kansas mention... although this time it wasn't such a negative context. seriously, is kansas the hollywood word for "the ninth circle of hell out in the middle of forking nowhere"?

It's ... kind of out in the middle of fucking nowhere.  Sorry.

@RevTrask: Question: Might there be some Eliot-related fisticuffs coming soon? I really dig the fights, mocha or no.

you know, there are shows where they go a whole season without fisticuffs.  Yes, plenty of Eliot ass-whooping this year, as you've by now seen.  Quite a bit int he Winter season, although both Parker and Hardison get in a few licks themselves.

@Anna: 1) Did Sophie have a method in picking everyone's costumes? Or, at least, did the writers have a method beyond "this costume would be the most funny/awesome/heartwarming"? 2) Does Parker usually hear mystery music while wandering through secret passageways? 3) LOVED the subtitled bit... reminded me a lot of Hustle. Who came up with that gag?  4) While we're on the subject of Hustle, I know you're really only a fan of the first season, but how many of your writers would kill for a crossover, or at least Adrian Lester as a guest star? Out of idle curiosity, if it were the Leverage team vs Hustle, who do you think would win?

1.) Nope.  Rule of Cool.  2.) She hears ... things all the time.  She also sees things a little differently.  3.) That's from Thorne's script.  4.)  As I've noted before, we're in the same genre as Hustle, but we're over here in the "blowing shit up, fisticuffs, pulp Robin Hood" corner, while they're waving at us from the very cool but very different "con cozy" corner of the bar.  (And only six episodes a season, Jesus, I'm jealous)  I cannot imagine they will ever run across the top of a moving train while another of their members has a giant gunfight, for example. 

I love Adrian Lester but I think it would be hard to have him guest star, since he's so iconic in that role.  And Leverage v Hustle?  Well, I think that would be a classic example of "meet, fight, team up", wouldn't you?

@Darryl Mott: 1.) With the theme of this episode being "famous detectives" and the influence of Boston on the series, I was expecting someone to show up as Robert B. Parker's famous detective Spenser, especially considering the author's recent passing and the imminent publishing of his final novel. Was there a creative reason there was no Spenser, or did you have problems clearing the rights, or did everyone in the writer's room just forget? 2.) Also, since you're an avid roleplayer, I've been dying to know since I got turned onto Leverage, did you ever play Shadowrun? What made me fall in love with the pilot episode was just after the scene in the warehouse. I literally stood up and started yelling "THIS IS A SHADOWRUN STORY!!" Johnson hires a team, team does the job, Johnson betrays the team, team gets revenge on Johnson. Eliot = Street Sam, Hardison = Decker , Parker = B&E, Sophie = Face, and Nate = Mage (What? Some of the crap he does has to be magic!

1.) Spencer has no distinctive wardrobe that would call him out.  2.) Of couse I played Shadowrun!  I think there are some hacks online for using the Leverage RPG for laying both Shadowrun and Mage.

@Baritenor: So obviously Nate forgot Sophie's name and will have to dig himself out of that hole AGAIN. So now that she's told everyone (even if one special person has forgotten) the question becomes 1. will we ever ACTUALLY hear her real name spoken on screen? 2. If so, will it be this season? 3. Why was the decision made to keep Sophie's real name a mystery after toying with us for a full season...longer, in fact. Remember, Sterling called her "Jenny" mysteriously back in Season One. Will THAT ever be explained? Sheesh.

1.) yes. 2.) no. 3.) If it were up to me, you'd never hear her real name.  But back in the day the Wonder Twins convinced me that you people would riot, and so you will hear it.  But assume that Sophie;s name is the Leverage-verse equivalent of "He will knock four times."

@Oona: 1.) Questions: is it right to assume that Nate, after having his epiphany about anger last week and learning that they are targets from some unknown source is now feeling particularly introspective about why they do this and what he's become in the course of doing this? 2.) Was Nate testing Eliot to see how he would grift on the fly to find out information, as opposed to - say - distracting someone or getting access to an off limits area (which he has done a lot)? 3.) Would Sophie have dressed Nate as Sherlock if given the chance? 4.) Will we ever see flashbacks to Nate/Eliot working together in the past? 5.) And, most importantly, I know you've said the show has less than a 100 ep lifespan. Will you tell us if your goal is to have 6 or 7 seasons ? (Of course what I'm really getting at is please tell us you don't see the show going only one more season!)  6.) Have to add my appreciation for Nate's oh-so-very dad line "What's the Rule?" I use it myself all the freaking time with my kids. Is someone in the writer's room channeling their childhood (or parentdom)?

1.)  Good catch. 2.) No, its more he's aware of Eliot's talents than Eliot is.  3.) Absolutely. 4.) That is a card on the board.  We'll see if it happens. 5.) The goal is to keep it entertaining and good.  That's it.  We'll take it one season at a time. 6.) That's Downey's rule in the writers room, actually.  Very dad-like.

@Anonymous: my one and only question: is one of the consequences related to the fact that everyone seems extremely comfortable? What I mean is this: with the exception being Nate, the team trusts in the fact that Hardison will hack, Parker will steal, Eliot will beat booty, and Sophie will grift. Granted, the majority of this trust would come from working together for a number of years, but it seems a little too perfect from here.... Or am I reading way, way too far into it?

Hmmm.  Not really.  That's more a by-play of them being super-talented pros at the top of their game. The consequences are more personal.  But good question -- and some of the "role" issues will be addressed this season, but internally.

@Dave MB: If I'm not mistaken, Nate asked for "Detective Bonanno" at the end. A mistake, or was our State Police friend busted down in rank from Captain?

We just shorthanded.  He's a Detective Captain, but in case new viewers didn't know him, we wanted them to understand Nate had a police detective friend he could call.

@Anonymous: This episode kinda ended funny for me. Could you go over what happened to Eliot at the end one more time please? It seems like we say him check for rips in the guy's jacket and then nothing more after that. I know when Nate, Parker, and Hardison were running for their lives in the secret passage way Nate says "Eliot we need that exit plan NOW!" but Eliot doesn't respond. It almost seems like Christian missed a few days of filming. Was this because of his schedule or was this just how the episode was written?

No, hes there.  He did all the detective work for Nate, and we just lost track of him at the end because of editing.  We're a true five-hander, so sometimes some characrters wind up a smidge light.

@JK: 1) Was this an episode that ended up getting written with certain actors in mind for the non-team roles? I ask because there seemed to be a pretty high number of geek-recognizable cast members this time around, e.g. Steven Flynn (though I may be alone among Leverage fans in being excited to see Johanna Braddy from Greek back on TV). How often do you end up writing roles for particular actors? 2) Anyone in particular in the writer's room we have to thank for the Imelda Marcos and Halle Berry bits?  3) The latter gag brought up something that's been kicked around before on this blog, in the sense that the flashback implied that Hardison was actually sitting next to Halle Berry. We've already this season begun to see a lot of the team's past jobs and habits biting them in the ass - old enemies looming, their criminal records damning them, people catching the references with their aliases. Since this is a season of consequences, are we at some point going to see the repercussions of the fact that a number of them have had their faces splashed all over the place? Sophie as the international media darling in the San Lorenzo Job, Eliot's time as baseball and country music star, etc.? 4) Happy to hear Detective Captain Bonanno is still on the job. Will we be seeing him in person later this season? How about Taggart and McSweeten?

1.) Coincidence.  Almost every role is written actor-independent.  Never write to an actor.  As my old showrunner used to say. "You write for Cary Grant.  You get Conrad Bain." 2.) Thank the dude who's name is on the episode.  3.) Those particular issues will not be the ones that arise.  It's a big world.  Although I assure you, Sterling will occasionally watch the news footage of Sophie in San Lorenzo when he needs a pick-me up.  4.) Bonnano and McSweeten will return. Scheduling problems on Taggert.  One of the sad things about TV is that there are actual humans, with other jobs, attached to these characters.

@Meagan: Love the episode...this is my first time asking a question but I have been a reader of your blog for the last few years...anyway, my questions is: What the heck is Parker smiling/smirking about all episode? I found it absolutely adorable and since she's with Hardison the whole time, it made me think that she looks like a girl on a date with a really cute guy, lol.

She is happy to be stealing.  Stealing makes her happy.  Stealing with Hardison, particularly when she's figures things out before he has, is a very fun night for her.

@Rara: Will we be seeing Eliot use his Christmas Present from the "Ho Ho Ho Job" at all the season? If ever?

You came thisclose to a sword fight this year.  Maybe next.

@Anna: Question from my brother (which I'm sure has been answered before, but I'm not smart enough to find): What's the power source for the earpieces?

A funky little battery Hardison designed.  In the pilot he explains that they are ... possibly a little too powerful to be safe.

@Anonymous: 1) Did Eliot, as a retrieval specialist, ever have to retrieve something stolen by Parker? 
2) Did all of the team know of each other, by rep, prior to the pilot? I think is was mentioned in a Season 1 deleted scene that Sophie had heard of Parker's rep, but did the others really know of each other? I can't really imagine any of the others knowing about hackers like Hardison, for example, since it seems so far out of their wheelhouse, but it has been mentioned that these guys have serious reps in Crime World.

1.) ... I'll say yes.  That delights me.  Yes.  2.) They new of each others' reps, but never worked together and probably wouldn't have recognized each other at all.  Also, not a lot of crossover between Crime World fields.  Eliot would know all the hitters and retrieval specialists, but just kind of know about the big grifters.

@GBellmansNo1Fan: Thanks for proving Sophie really IS more bad ass than Eliot! *ducks flying objects from others* Hey, it takes Eliot a while to knock people out with the props he uses. Sophie, one shot, with the shaded end of the lamp, and little rich bitch was out cold? YES!!! However, I'm now left wondering exactly how long she took on the Annie Kroy persona for. Please say "years"...lie if you have to.

I could write Gina as Annie Kroy for five seasons.  She's my favorite cover identity.  Say she's been Annie off and on for years, whenever necessary.

Right, there are some miscellaneous comments left, but no real questions, so that's it.  Let's say #403 and #312 go up next week.  Gives you maniacs something to chat about in the meantime.

Talk to you soon.

72 comments:

Jugglernaut said...

You spoil us, and we appreciate it. Thank you!

SueN. said...

You came thisclose to a sword fight this year. Maybe next.

Now that right there is just mean! But I still love you. And I have so missed the postgames. Thank you for doing these!

Dysan said...

But assume that Sophie;s name is the Leverage-verse equivalent of "He will knock three times."

I assume you're referring to 'Doctor Who', in which case its "He will knock four times"

Also I love how you will take bits people come up with in the questions and make them part of the universe, in this case Eliot retrieving an item from Parker. And if I recall correctly the strad they find on the plane being the strad Eliot plays.

Hugin said...

Elliot as Wolverine, sure. Or Batman. Maybe Dark Claw, to satisfy everyone.
Hardison is Mr Terrific.
Sophie as...no clue. There's relatively few pure conwomen in comics.
Nate as Old Angry Bruce Wayne from Batman Beyond. He's mad, he's lost everything, he plans for everything, he operates mostly behind the scenes, but hurt someone close to him and he will destroy you.
Parker as...maybe Ragdoll. Crazy, but humanized somewhat by her friendships, and INCREDIBLE at getting past security.

CJ Winkler said...

Thank you, John! Always enjoy the insight into each episode and the show as a whole. Amazed at some of the questions people ask. I really appreciate the time you take with this. Makes me love the show even more!

Richard Howe said...

Parker as Black Canary. And not just because of the costume.

Niels van Eekelen said...

Sorry, but if Parker is a Gail Simone character, she is definitely Misfit. "Darrrrrk vennnngeannnce!"

SueN. said...

Oh, btw, just let me say that I honestly don't care if we never learn Sophie's real name. She is and always will be Sophie Devereaux to me.

zillah975 said...

This is so random I feel kind of silly asking, but every time I see her name I wonder again: is the name Annie Kroy by any chance a riff on, or nod to, Wendy Kroy from The Last Seduction?

gwangung said...

Considering the fixation several members of the staff had with putting Parker in a Supergirl outfit, that was probably for the best.

No.

It.

Wasn't.

3.) Could you ever write a Leverage Stage play?

Hell, no.

You realize...you've just challenged every writers' group in the Pacific Northwest into attempting a Leverage pastiche....

Rogers said...

@ zillah975

Nope, a riff on the Kray brothers.

Sihaya said...

"Looking at the set as it is now, I don't know how we'd block that scene in "The Future Job" where Parker comes home freaked out after the cold reader's cracked her past. She needs to be in that living room, surrounded by her loved ones. Maybe we'd do it in the back room of the bar now? "

You'd do it at the dining table, where Eliot has served dinner before, just as everyone's sitting down to another one of his meals. The team's dining table serves the same multiple functions as the table in most family homes - sometimes it's a workplace, sometimes it's where a couple of people converse and relax, and other times it's where the whole family sits together.

BigTomHatfield said...

That's actually pretty much what I would've picked. Except maybe for Sophie, Emma Frost would fit her ability to manipulate people (although it would be a bit Fan-servicey)

Nate as Nick Fury though, that one is just perfect.

sienamystic said...

He is both Hardy Boys at once, combining the keen mental powers of Frank with the sensuality of Joe.

Finally, someone validates my long-held conviction.

Anonymous said...

Ah - I have missed you. Didn't realize how much until I was reading through your answers.

Thank you very much for sharing with us.

Miranda said...

Okay, the knock three times thing only makes me think of Tony Orlando and Dawn. Thanks for putting that song in my head.

Liza said...

Thanks for always doing this, I adore you writer boy.

Robin said...

Yay! Thank you again for doing these, John. Reading the behind-the-scenes dirt is almost as fun as watching the episodes. :)

And I just have to tell you this because it's just so coincidental. You went off on a tangent about 'Stork Job' that I read while rewatching the commentary for 'Stork Job' and eating Haagen-Dazs! Freaky.

Anonymous said...

i'd like to pitch a d.b. cooper job - where they reverse engineer what is known in order to discover who he was.

chelle said...

Thank you!

Robert Chen said...

@Hugin

Mystique? Rogue? Catwoman?

Kristin said...

Thank you kind sir! You definitely spoil us. And a big thank you for not forgetting about the rest of season three question posts. I was just about to go back through the blog just in case I somehow missed them. (Not sure how that would have been possible as I have been refreshing your page for eternity!)
You and your writing staff are amazing!

Calla said...

I highly approve of your plan to delay responding to questions in order to give us something to do over the hiatus!

/sincerity

Hugin said...

@Robert Chen: MYSTIQUE! Yes. Sophie as Mystique. That's perfect.

I considered Catwoman, but both her and Rogue have grifting as a side job, not a main course.

antisocialbutterflie said...

Let me join in the thanks. It is always appreciated when you manage to find time to wade through our questions.

I just rewatched this episode since it compulsively lives in my DVR until the DVD comes out. I noted then how the costumes were wonderful. Nadine Haders deserves many props, though now I want the team to steal a Renaissance Faire. I'm picturing Sophie in a princess costume, Elliot in armor, Parker a rogue, Hardison a jester and Nate a drunken monk. (And I would be willing to sign a waiver should you like the idea).

I am a little bummed about the dirth of sword fighting however. John you are such a tease.

Anonymous said...

I agree with SueN. Sophie will always be "Sophie" to me.

I like the Ren Faire idea. Just for the costumes!

Someone came forward recently saying she thinks D.B. Cooper was her uncle. They're investigating the lead.

GBellmansNo1Fan said...

NOTE: I could watch Gina as Annie Kroy for 5 seasons...and then some...but you probably already knew that.

Shawne said...

Thanks, what a wonderful Leverage fix! Well worth the wait. The finale references are pure torture btw.

the_eye said...

no no no no! you should outsource the job of creating the Annie Kroy Show to the magnificent bastard responsible for "Luther", because MAN, that show was horrifying. And good.

Oona said...

I can only console you (and myself) by deciding that these long delays were my clever plan all along, so that we'd have something to talk about during hiatus.

Clearly an example of your genius at work, since everyone in jonesing for a fix at this point. ;)

Thanks so much for doing these. They are super fun and informative to read.

That bit about Hutton doing his dad from Ellery Queen was especially informative, since I noticed his delivery was very distinctive and un-Natelike when he confronted the killer, but having never seen Ellery Queen didn't know where it was coming from. Makes the tribute all that much nicer.

Also sounds like perhaps we've been reading too much into Eliot's irritation with Nate. Having seen through 410, it definitely has not been an issue after maybe 403, but I think that seeing Eliot be bitchy with Nate in three eps in a row got folks speculating that there was something dark building there.

IMForeman said...

If people still want to get them into superhero getups, you could always do "The ComicCon-Job."

Now there's an episode I'd like to pitch.

Rogers said...

@Sihaya

Good pitch, but there's something about the eyelines on those couches too -- multiple levels, with a clear view of the screen. Her being on the floor, them on the couches, with Nate standing, created a visual dynamic that really drove that episode.

That said, Marc Roskin would have figured something out. He's an amazing director.

Mary Sue said...

I had the great joy to watch this episode with my parents (I'm in PDX, they're in the SF Bay Area and we're about as far apart in personal tastes as those two cities are in distance) and the first shot of Mr. Hutton in his costume my mother said with deep glee, "Oh my god, he's his father!"

So. Basically. Thanks for putting on a show that me and my folks can enjoy together.

But assume that Sophie;s name is the Leverage-verse equivalent of "He will knock three times."

I AM OKAY WITH NEVER HEARING HER NAME. See? I brought out the shoutycaps which lets you know I'm serious.

IMForeman said...

@Rogers "But assume that Sophie;s name is the Leverage-verse equivalent of "He will knock three times."

Does this mean Nate will only hear it right before he dies?

RevTrask said...

Oh, he's such a wag! TV shows that don't have fisticuffs? He almost got me with that one. I mean, there aren't any. Right?

And, while I have indeed seen for myself that the fights are back, I was ill-prepared for them to get so...surreal. *g*. After "The Carnival Job", I keep waiting for Eliot to tell Hardison that when "you can snatch the pebble from my hand..." lol.

bourgon said...

"military unit he was in, where they were all code-named as": Ooh! ooh! I know this! Kit-kat! Or maybe Chlamydia!

Also, I did the same thing as one of the posters - THIS IS SHADOWRUN SQUEEEEEEEEEE

Sweet. That being said, I'd hate to see your Call of Cthulhu homage.

jamoche said...

Chiming in on the "we don't need to know Sophie's name" theme - I don't know of anyone who was happy when we finally learned MacGyver's first name. Sometimes the mystery is better than the reality.

bourgon said...

One other question, John: obviously you do the commentaries, have you ever considered recording your Answer Posts? I'd love to hear you read some of these.

Piratecat said...

I think Bourgon has it right! You should record these. Faster, funnier, and you can drink more.

Thanks so much for doing these.

- Kevin

Anonymous said...

Thank you for treating us Leverage-starved fans to such a delicious buffet. Very tasty stuff!

Alden Strock said...

Speaking of Superhero/Character match-ups, the correspondence between the Crew and a certain other group of three boys and two girls popped in to my head the other day. The idea was sticky enough that I felt compelled to make this:

https://plus.google.com/111778183598542764080/posts/BJ8Xc5eDW3C

I can't believe I'm the first to notice the possible existence of "The Leverage Club"

I guess that make Sterling vice-principle Vernon?

SueN. said...

@Alden Strock – Dude, you totally win.

xjill said...

What a treat! Thank you!!

Anna said...

Thank you so very much!

Swellsman said...

Sophie should be the Black Orchid, from the 70's. She was a master of disguise who infiltrated bad guys and nobody knew her real name.

Anonymous said...

The whole point of learning Sophie's real name is Nate knowing it because it's a part of their relationship development.

adc1966 said...

Yes, Black Canary is the Gail Simone character Parker must dress up as.

Parker as Black Canary and Sophie as Zatanna would possibly be the greatest moment in the history of fishnets.

Kylee said...

Is there any chance you might release one of the Leverage scripts online or something for us to read?

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H.H. Quinn said...

Much love for the Soctor Who reference!

pambc said...

If you're serious about a Supernatural crossover,and you end up in BC, you'd better stop by and say Hi or I will curse you for all existance AND find more blackmail photos in my photo albums from university!
As for comic book females - can't we stay away from Catwoman? Didn't you learn from the movie?

Skybird said...

Hey John, I understand that other folks have commented on this issue, so I just want to put in my 2 cents. I've recently run across the show Leverage, and am AMAZED at it, because it's such a SMART show with fabulous casting. The rub - my husband is hard of hearing. I know you see where I'm going with this. Purchased a season, and imagine our surprise when there were no subtitles. I've been going back and forth with Paramount Home Entertainment, and they said to turn captions on the television, but with modern DVD setups, this just doesn't work. Any strings you can pull to get Paramount to re-release the seasons with subtitles? If nothing else, thanks for reading my comment, and for your part in creating such a GREAT show. We've been missing smartly written shows since Boston Legal went off the air.

Kris said...

"@Anonymous: I'd like to know when Elliot is going to have his 'Come to Jesus' talk with Nate? And what will be the repercussions of that talk?

In the season finale, and it's not the talk you think it is."

... You magnificently evil BASTARD. Such a tease.

allyone said...

As usual, thanks for all the answers, hints and spoilers. You make the hiatus more bearable, that's for sure.

When did Nate hit bottom? I always count "My name is Nate Ford, and I'm a thief" as a victory for Nate, a sudden moment of clarity.

I would say that Nate hit rock bottom just before his moment of clarity - he was drinking out of control, screwed up the con, got caught by Sterling, endangered the team and lost his cell connection with Sophie just when he confessed his real feelings (okay, sorta) to her. That's pretty far down, wouldn't you say?

Sihaya said...

Rogers, I do see what you mean, especially the significance of the levels. Thank you.

kuroshii said...

Thank you again for these Q&A posts, @Rogers. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Kudos to the team on this episode. Srsly.

Oh, and @DarrylMott? Eliot=PhysAd. With that level of "plow through the pain" you think he's merely a 'Sam? C'mon! Just sayin'.

;)

Monika said...

Not related to season 4 but to Leverage nevertheless.

My friend and I had this idea of getting Jack Davenport on the show as a guest star and of course Sophie would have to call herself Jane in front of him to make all those Coupling fans (like us) happy!

Now that we thought of this we just HAD to let one of you guys know.

So, what do you think?

muebles en galapagar said...

The chap is completely right, and there's no skepticism.

taz alter said...

I had seen its promo on television and after that I saw Leverage Episodes online. I really cant believe that this is really fantastic show. Good and intelligent plot with smart and talented cast.

Anonymous said...

@ IMForeman: "Does that mean Nate will hear her name right before he dies?"

Yes! And it happens in the Series Finale! You know, Season 22 ender! Because I want to know Sophie's name! I just don't want it to interfere with the fact that she's Sophie! I want to know the name though!

Lisa Dayringer said...

First, let me say that Leverage is my absolute favorite show. However, I do have one problem: I am extremely hard of hearing. The DVDs, unfortunately, do not have subtitles, which leaves me to only be able to watch reruns with CC... and then only when I can find a television. The episodes online do not have subtitles either. Is there any chance that subtitles will be available in the future?

Anonymous said...

" are they going to steal a chalice? Or stop a human sacrifice?

Next season, when magic returns to the Leverage-verse, and we finally get the Supernatural crossover you people have been whinging about endlessly."

ooooh, the whinging works then?
Awesome.
So can we have a RenFair job too, where everybody is in costume and Eliot will get to use his sword for the second or third time?
(Because you already promised a first time, and of course he'll need a blade in the Supernatural episode, right?)

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(NOTE: You say "trope", I say "well-honed story tool.")

Do I need to link the Tropes Aren't Bad TVtropes page? I won't, because that's a terrible idea, but the point is, really, 'trope' is a shorthand for exactly what you call it!

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