Technically, he was the only actor who did skate. That changed. As soon as we knew we were doing this episode, we gave Kane a call.
"We need you to play hockey and fight on the ice."
"When's it shoot?"
"(beat) No problem."
Kane flew up to Portland a month early, got a coach, and there he is -- annoying me by doing his stunts in a whole new environment. Joy.
Big props have to go to director Mark Roskin and the crew. Not just for making it a fine-looking episode as always, but for shooting on the ice for 14 hours at a time. Human body's not made for that, either on skates or shoes, and everybody went home very, very sore. Finest crew I've worked with in 20 years, I can't say it enough. Although, frankly as long as we never go back to that goddam mountain, they consider everything else pretty much a cakewalk.
So where'd this episode come from? Well, we'd been talking about the Derek Boogaard story for a while in the room even before we knew we had a rink. The cumulative effect of years of fighting on hockey enforcers and the NHL's tacit tolerance of the tradition were just hitting the news. Closer to my heart, however was the John Kordic story. I knew a little about the tragic tale, but my friend and occasional writing partner DJ McCarthey had researched a TV movie on Kordic and filled me in. Kordic had been a promising player, but was forced into the goon role when he hit his growth spurt. The league turned a blind eye to his drug use, and eventually he binged out and died in a shitty Quebec hotel room under a pile of cops.
Coincidentally, just after we finished writing this one the movie Goon premiered. Goon was co-written by Jay Baruchel, a Canadian actor who loves his damn hockey. Seriously, he has a Maple Leaf tattoo. One of the joys of going to the infrequent Habs/Kings games is watching Jay rally the attending Canadiens fans into a frenzy. The movie gave us some nice tips on how to shoot and pace our own games for the episode. Goon is available on Netflix for both disc and streaming, btw. You will not regret the rental.
Goon actually brought about one of the more surreal moments in the writers room this year. In Goon Liev Schreiber plays a very Terry O'Riley style enforcer, and one morning I spent a good 15 minutes waxing poetic on that brutal, fast left hand of O'Riley's from back in the day. Finally Scott Veach snapped "This is the first sports we've heard you talk in five years. Who ARE you? " Well yeah. I'm not a big basketball fan. I like the Red Sox but ... yeah, the Bruins. Still hardwired in. I'm actually getting into soccer a bit, now that I see it's structured like hockey on grass.
Right, back to the episode. The mark's scam was originally built out as a team move rather than just a bankruptcy. This was based on the infamous 1984 midnight move of the Colts from Baltimore to Indianapolis. That got us into a swamp of explaining the relationship of owners to franchises and the league, all sorts of ugly exposition, so we eventually turned it into a money-laundering scam on top of the bounty plotline. There have been no proven bounties in the NHL like there were in the recent NFL scandal, but nobody who watches hockey believes for a second there aren't a few floating around.
The theme of the episode -- the role of the enforcer -- was tailor-made for Eliot. You can directly compare this episode to the MMA one in Season Two. In that episode he reflects, with Sophie, on his relationship with violence; here he extends that out to considering how he wound up in his life. I've always said Eliot doesn't enjoy fighting -- he's just a negotiator who understands that sometimes the most effective negotiating tactic is a precise amount of violence. Oddly, like that episode, this was third one shot and second one aired. Hmm.
Getting Treat Williams was a pleasure and a surprise. He was great, of course. Unlike most procedurals, our show really does kind of rise and fall on its villains. I think, though, we had a nice deep bench on this one. Graham Shiels was a lovely blend of tough and damaged -- and MAN, did Thure Reifenstein nail Vlad! One of those performances where, as you watch the dailies, you want ot go back and rewrite the script to give him more. Maybe next time ...
The episode really is a perfect example of how some writers rooms are accretion rooms. I (improbably) knew some hockey and some money laundering (remember, the key to money laundering is no physical sales), someone else brought in the Colts story, Veach was all about the magnets -- I think every writer tossed in some part of this thing, which Scott and Paul spot welded into a pretty tight little episode. The heist was eventually a pain in the ass to coordinate as the location didn't exactly agree with what we wanted to do in the script, but it got there.
I'm sure your questions cover the rest of wat I might address, including how this episode is kind of crucial to the season finale. I'm sure.
@briddle: Were the hockey players all from Portland?
Yep, a mix of our crew and many of the minor league players from the Portland area, along with some folks who just straight up auditioned.
@ChelseaNH: So was that really Rogers and Downey at the face-off?
God no. I haven't been on skates in 15 years. And we have to protect my head.
@EllenZ: Who's brilliant idea was it to have a staring contest with a turtle?
The turtle began as a falcon, then an owl, then eventually a morphed into a turtle. (Hellooo cable budget). The gag was a mix of Tim improvising and some on-set writing.
@Sarah: Did Nate ever figure out what happened to his watch?
He's got a pretty good idea. Whenever anything goes missing, he assumes Hardison has welded it to something.
@DangerGirl: Where DID Sophie put Lord Stanley's Cup?
In Providence, RI. (Trust me. Watch it. It's amazing. It's available for streaming -- which I did not know, and makes it my next Netflix Friday post)
@Petticoat: 1.) Why did Hardison blowtorch the cash box? Was that where they got the $500,000 that went ot Marko? (It just didn't look like $500k in those pouches) 2.) I have always wondered about the back story thay attributed Eliot's fondness for kids ... Any chance that will pop up this season?
1.) Treat's character had converted his stolen cash into cash receipts and slid them into the night's take, hiding them among the ticket sales for the whole playoff series. By cleaning him out, we took away his leverage. And you know what? You're right -- the bags should have been bigger, and so should the carts. That was a combo of the location issues and poor conceptualization on our part. It happens, but that one bugs me too. Mea culpa.
2.) Nope. What's past is (generally) past. I'm not much fond of explicit backstory.
@MCRyan: 1.) OMG was that a Hansen Brother in the penalty box? 2.) When I pickd up the first episode from i-tunes I noticed it was shorther than last season's episodes. Is that why you eliminated the opening? If so, it was a great way to keep from sacrificing another minute of story.
1.) Sadly no, but the resemblance is intentional. 2.) As noted.
@lindas: Did Vlad call Sophie "Rosa" before he left? Could that be her real name?
He did. And it could be. Could be.
@Anonymous: Why drop the show opening? Not complaining, just curious.
In year 5 we really don't think we need to explain the premise anymore, and that's 30 seconds out of our very valuable storytelling real-estate. Hell, one-hour shows are at 42 minutes now.
@SueN: re: Parker's "did I fall asleep again?" and Hardison's "Soylent Green is people!" (which, btw, was priceless). Does Hardison live at the new headquarters?
There's a crash apartment upstairs that has kind of morphed into Hardison and Parker's shared space, although they both still keep separate lairs.
@Tom Galloway: 1.) C. Marko = Juggernaut? And was Busiek a reference to Portland-area based comics writer Kurt Busiek? And you realize if this had happened last season in Boston, Eliot would've fought a Bruin/Bear. 2.) I can't buy that a World Hockey League would even consider Portland for a single USA team. It's only got the population to support 1.5 major league teams (the .5 for the soccer team, which is doing quite well with respect to other MLS teams), It's not a major media outlet. It's got the West Coast time zone disadvantage for East and Central viewing, and isn't a hockey hotbed. Such a team would shoot for New York, maybe Chicago, Boston, or Philly. 3.) Ditto the base plot; so Marko gets 500K if he fights in every single game, and so they're trying to take him out by putting bounties on him. But doesn't he get taken out if the team doctor says "This man will die if he gets hit with a feather pillow" and has the MRI/x-rays to prove it? 4.) And sorry, I know the answer to me back when is your canonical goto for when folk complain about how easy it is to find the team and why it just doesn't matter, but really; a 15-17 year old kid finds them when they've been in town for maybe a couple of weeks? That's hitting A-Team levels.
1.) Yes, that was a Juggernaut reference. The Busiek reference was random. Although I dig Kurt.
2.) The problem with that objection is the NHL -- if they try to poach a major franchise, they go head to head and start spending stupid money. Now, there's a good argument that the NHL is in financial trouble enough that they'd consider being bought out by enough cash, but there's no way they're going to let go of a major TV franchise. Nope, for international expansion Portland's actually not a bad argument. Not a great investment, but not a bad argument.
3.) Why would Treat give up the income he's getting from stacking the games with Marko fights? Pull Marko and your ticket sales go down, and your opportunity for graft. You sir, are not thinking like a criminal. On a lesser note, there's no way Marko wouldn't have an injury clause in that contract. it;s like when I was a stand-up. You cancel the gig, you don't get paid. You show up, and they have to pay you. Or, alternatively, the "all episodes produced" writer. Known a few people who got fired and sat home collecting a season's worth of checks. That's probably one of those things that most people wouldn't think of, but our bias was against it, so we didn't go that way.
4.) The fact they're in town a few weeks doesn't matter -- people finding them is location-independent, done through the web and Hardison's data crawlers. Hardison may well have lined up the kids inquiries during the break, and they're just getting to him now. The team functions nationally, at least.
@Susy: ... Why didn't Nate get jealous with that Vlad guy kissing Sophie?
Never show you're jealous. Cedes control. (And that's probably more revealing of me than the character)
@jamesfirecat: Was it really necessary to do the last scene between Nate and the mark the way you did? We all know that Nate is a vindictive son of a bitch, but usually his vindictiveness shows up in more dramatic ways than "Okay here's the final stage of the plan, we're gonna corner the guy we don't like with a bunch of hockey players and force him to give us what we want or else we'll beat the shit out of him?" Isn't that a little too cut and dried for our team?
Answered adroitly in the Comments by Art_Connery and Jamesfoiecat themselves:
"Ahh, the idea that those enforcers that Nate had with him were the exact same people (minus Elliot) who the villain had hired to start fights an appropriately karmic twist to the entire situation (as he is being destroyed by those he set out to manipulate much like the... I want to say Glowfish, whatever, was back in season 4 that I had not considered before and feels much more appropriate than Nate just rounding up some Hockey Themed backup with which to shake down the mark."
@Ally: Can we see Nadia Olyenkov again? PLEASE? She is now my favorite Sophie alias.
Maybe. That hair was amazing, wasn't it? And the bit with her head on Nate's lap was an on-set improv between the two of them.
@MacSTL: 1) Glad there wasn't too much of the announcers on camera because the voice didn't match the picture. 2) How did Nate know the numbers Sophie found were dates? 3) In the dressing room after Game 6, why was the son so upset w/Eliot? Was he really upset or was he faking his own involvement? 4) I really expected to hear Eliot give the speech to Marko that if he really cared about his kid he wouldn't risk his health... What was the reason to hold that back? 5) Is Parker living with Hardison at the BrewPub? 6) Did Kane actually take that hit over the boards on to the bench himself? 7) What was the reason for the camera shot of Rising shredding the tickets?
1.) Well, hey. Not liked we played real games.
2.) Nate looks for patterns in numbers. If they hadn't been dates, he would have tried something else. Pretty easy guess actually. Not a lock combination because of the range, etc.
3.) He was embarrassed and worried about his dad, so he was lashing out. Probably also frustrated that the problem wasn't solved yet.
4.) Because it wouldn't work. Marko was convinced (and states explicitly) that caring about his kid meant ensuring his future with the money. Eliot knew talking him out of that belief wasn't going to happen.
5.) Crashing non-exclusively.
7.) Shred the tickets so they're "sold", those receipts match the extra money in the take. That's how the laundering works.
@Anonymous: 1) Did Timothy Hutton do all of his own skating? 2) Hardison was under the metal floor panel at the loading dock to secure the money box with the super powered magnets. And then he saws through the floor panel and the money box so that the cash receipt bags fall into his hands. So after that, what is securing the money box to that metal floor panel, and does the does the bank representative see a hole at the bottom of the money box that goes through to the level below?
2.) He left the magnets. And yes, the bank manager sees the hole. But the money hasn't reached the armored car yet, so their insurance doesn't kick in. We had a bigger explanation of how the Mark's screwed here by the transition state, but it was cut for time.
@Alayne Stone: 1.) Why is it necessary for the con to include a turtle? That seems weirdly specific and other than adding to Nadja's weirdness it didn't really seem to add anything (in-text I mean, it was a lot of fun for us!) 2.) Does the Stanley Cup thing mean Sophie still has hangars all over the world filled with valuables for a rainy day? 3.) Surely Hardison knows how to pick a lock by now, was he just being lazy? 4.) Is Parker/Hardison movie night a regular thing? If so, what movies do they watch? :P
1.) The turtle/animal is meant to add an element of eccentricity and to set the mark off his game. Assume its just tradition from the many versions of this con that've been played.
2.) She's liquidated most of them. The Cup isn't in one of them and never was. The first draft of the script revealed its final hiding place, but we cut it.
3.) He not very good at it, frankly. All of them have their niches, and Sophie's just faster.
4.) Yes, and Hardions primarily is taking her through all the sci-fi and horror greats. He is considering showing her STAR WARS in the Machete Order.
@Carl: Is Parker being comfortable enough to sleep in the same vicinity as someone else while letting her guard down a big deal for the emotional growth of her character?
Hell yes. We actually teased this in S3, when we revealed she catnaps in Hardison's van.
@Callie Ann: i just have one random little question... the synch app (though AWESOME!) said that Eliot was in the army. previous episodes (namely the San Lorenzo Job, the Experimental Job and the Last Dam Job) have also said this, along with the fact that he was a Commander. being a military brat my entire life, i know that the only commander rankings (aside from Commander-in-Chief, and i think we would have noticed that) are for the Army, Command Sargent Major and for the Navy, Fleet/Command Master Chief. no other branch has the Commander rank. so, was Eliot's ranking his San Lorenzo equivalent cause he was on loan to them, or was he a Sargent Major, or was that just a term used to address him in San Lorenzo cause he was in charge, or what? i am very confused...
"Commander" was his adopted milita title when he helped his friend fight in an unspecified war after switching sides. it was not his Army rank.
@James Geluso: 1.) Were the enforcers on the ice at the end literally the enforcers from around the league? Or members of the Portland team (possibly plus the opponents) who were acting as enforcers in that scene but not designated enforcers on the ice? 2.) Who exactly now owns the team? I came away with the feeling that the Oregon Otters are now the Mondragon Cooperative of hockey. 3.) A best-of-seven series to end the season... that means this was the league championship, right? And the Otters are now champions? I would have expected the announcers to say so.
1.) Around the league. More satisfying.
2.) They're like the Packers.
3.) Yes, we recorded that. Cut it along the way. Not sure why.
@RYan Elizabeth: it was very frustrating to see that not a single member of the Leverage team made the connection between the injuries suffered by hockey players and what that means for Eliot. And no one on here said anything about it either! So what I don't get, is that the entire episode is devoted to the cumulative toll all the fighting took on Marcos body. Yet how did not single a SINGLE person question how much more wear and tear a career military man PLUS career hitter would have? Plus no mention of Eliot's past(assumably numerous) concussions? Even though one is mentioned on the show by Nate (in the First David Job.) Don't get me wrong I loved the episode and the plotline, but I kept waiting for some member of intellegent Leverage team to draw the parallel and not a single one did. Was this intentional? Or did they just miss it?
Huh. We talked about this in the room, but we felt Eliot had more agency than Marko -- Eliot at any point can retire, and he's in the business of not getting hit. When Marko does his job, he gets hammered; when Eliot does his job right, nobody touches him. I suppose it's salt to taste, but we just wanted to focus on Marko here, primarily.
@Rein ... We're just glad you like the show. And Gina is indeed great.
@Video Beagle: I don't believe there is such thing as a "rare earth electromagnet" In fact, I believe that such a thing would be impossible by the laws of physics. Unless, it was a RareUrth Brand Electromaget...the most electroey magnets you can buy!
Sorry, V.B. They are based on neodymium magnets, the most powerful rare earth magnets on earth. These magnets actually have a long history in the Leverage writers room. They were a plot point in our second episode we broke, our first thrown out, a fine piece by Christine Boylan (@Kitmoxie) that never came together. The warning phrase from the manufacturer -- "Strong enough ... to tear the hand off a small child!" -- will still occasionally be shouted in the writers room.
@Anonymous: You said in earlier posts that Eliot is the one who evolves first and the sense that I'm getting from this season is that he is ready to move on to a new (leverage-free) life. Is he starting to realize that if you live like Jimmy Ford, then you'll die like Jimmy Ford (to paraphrase a line from last season)? Is he is beginning to realize that he can live a different life? Thank you for this show and this blog. I sense that you are leading us slowly to the end and that makes me very sad.
He's drawn his own conclusions, but the mistakes he's seen others make certainly contribute to his evolution. And yeah, Eliot's sensing something coming too ...
@Oona: This ep made me think of all the stuff going on with former football and hockey players committing suicide and/or suffering dementia, but it seemed like the episode was couched as, "just get the guy off hockey and all will be well," despite the fact that he's apparently already suffering what sounds like permanent effects. And I know the Leverage team are not supposed to be gods who can change a guy's medical problems, just curious as to what the thought process was.
Was there a discussion on how far to go with that issue? Was there a conscious choice made by the writers not to address the fact that Marko very likely will still die or face serious consequences from his repetitive brain trauma?
I think I might have liked to see that issue addressed directly. It would have made it more poignant (okay and maybe a little tragic) to confront the fact that the decisions Marko had made in hockey could never be fully undone and to know that the team did what they could but that sometimes, there are limitations to their powers.
But then maybe that approach is a little less fun train, I admit. (It's true, sometimes, I want DARK ANYBODY COULD DIE AT ANY TIME LEVERAGE. I'm trying to work through it.)
We really could only address the immediate threat to his life -- sure, we talked about the after-effects, but that's a pretty heavy downer to end the show on. We're light drama, and our few forays into darkness are doled out sparingly. It's a very conscious decision not to send you home on a bummer note. Enough shows have that handled. I will admit that even we struggle with the tone, sometimes.
I 'm occasionalyl annoyed with reviewers when they suddenly realize "This show is great, it seems to have stumbled into that niche of 1970's light crime dramas." We built it that way. If we wanted to go dark, we certainly could -- but then we wouldn't be in Season 5 on the network we're on.
@hhgt: Question: Is Hardison secretly running the cons this season? It's just, they seem a lot like his cons; lots of moving parts, very complicated end-games, overwhelming the mark, etc
"Overwhelming the mark" is certainly a Nate tactic -- see "Order 23 Job" among others. I think that in the few eps that have aired (and we have moved a few around) you've seen a slightly higher percentage of gaslights. That does not hold up for the rest of the season. You might note, however, that the heist was quite distinctly Parker's plan ...
@ellabell: 1.) I know a lot about hockey, but I let most of the errors go -- but the one that couldn't get over was that there was an assumption that the series would go to 7 games. Was there a discussion about this? I mean, it could have been easily written in -- the added element of suspense of whether or not the bounty would be fulfilled within before the series was over -- or if they started the con in game 3 or 4 -- I just got caught on that if they had won in 4 games, then the manager would have had to pay the bonus. Leaving it to the last minute was risky2.) Also: how was the approach different to a hockey episode than the baseball episode, in that most Americans really don't know much about hockey, but know a lot about baseball?
1.) We actually had dialogue addressing this. Cut it, since most people didn't even notice.
2.) That was tricky. It's always hard to judge deep people's knowledge of something culturally widespread is. I mean, most people will look at a hockey game and say "oh, hockey, there's a goalie, that's called a penalty box ..." and at the same time, I had to explain offsides to the writers room about four times. Eventually we aired on the side of people having some base knowledge, and moving past the bits that might need explanation. Veyr much a judgement call.
@Tuesday: 1a.) I assume Sophie and Vlad stole the Stanley Cup together, but my question is why? Nate's questioning implies that Sophie didn't sell it and they replaced it with a copy so no one knows they stole it. b.) Did this heist happen pre-Leverage or on one of their breaks? c.) Was Sophie just messing with Nate about not remembering? At the end when Nate asks again about the trophy and Sophie says she doesn't remember Parker is cracking up which makes me think Sophie is just yanking his chain. If so, I approve. 2.) It seemed to me that Vlad's relationship with Sophie was affectionate, but not romantic (therefore not a rival for Nate) and that part of his reason for coming was to "evaluate" Nate and make sure he was treating Sophie well. a.) Am I wrong? b.) Will Vlad return? I liked his interactions with Nate and Sophie. 3.) The turtle was amazing! Did they keep him? He would be an excellent office pet! Plus, Nate could have more staring contests whenever he needed to take his mind off things. 4.) In the pilot when we meet Sophie she says she is an honest citizen now. a. Was she just on a break between cons or did something happen to make her "go straight"? b. If its the latter will we ever find out?
1a) It was a ransom scam gone wrong.
1c.) Messing with him. Definitely.
2a.) Formerly romantic, but hell yeah, he's checking out the new guy.
2b.) If we can bring him back, we will. I loved his performance.
3.) He's upstairs in the crash pad.
4a) She was trying to go straight. She would try, sometimes.
4b) well, one factor was definitely losing her favorite detective chasing her ...
@Anonymous: Ok..so you said we will hear Her name spoken aloud but will we know it is The Name? You know who I mean.
You will know. No mistaking.
Lovely. Always a pleasure. I'll try to get "First Contact" up midweek, so we'll be caught up by the time 506 airs. As always, thanks for watching!