Bank robbers, loan sharks, crooked prison wardens and heart-stealing CEOs make up some of the best Leverage episodes/takedowns ever. Let’s say goodbye to Nate, Sophie, Parker, Hardison and Elliot in style, with a countdown of their greatest cons and schemes.
Last Tuesday, on Christmas day, TNT’s Leverage hung up its hat with the quick, satisfying series finale, “The Long Goodbye Job.” While word of the show’s cancellation had only officially been announced the previous week, those running the show knew ahead of time that it would probably be best to write the season finale as a series ender.
As a way of bidding farewell to Nate, Sophie, Parker, Hardison, Elliot and all their elaborate cons, here’s Showrenity’s Top 12 Episodes of Leverage. Their most exciting, grift-erific schemes, ploys and cons…
12: The D.B. Cooper Job
Admittedly, I wasn’t crazy about this episode at the outset. Plus, it was more of a mystery than a con, per se, and there was a certain gall-factor to Nate solving the real-life mystery of D.B. Cooper. Seeing the entire team retro-fitted into ’70s flashbacks was a bit gimmicky too. But the resolution of this episode, and the reveal that McSweeten’s partner Steve Reynolds, played by Fred Ward, was Cooper was magnificent. Of course, too much is usually given away by the mere presence of guest stars, but I thoroughly enjoyed Nate’s spin on things and his line “He did bring D.B. Cooper to justice.”
11: The Bottle Job
I should come clean with the fact that I’m partial to Leverage cons with more serious and dramatic stakes and less goofy approaches. The more believable the con is to me, the more I admire the episode. Also, I love it when the show touches upon the real world of established cons. In “The Bottle Job,” Nate, at his most drunk and daring, pulls of “The Wire” con (as made famous in the movie The Sting) in an hour. By having Hardison delay the results of a cable-broadcast basketball game, Nate puts “The Sting” on local loan shark Mark Doyle and actually wins McRory’s Place in the process.
10: The Queen’s Gambit Job
This time around, Nate and Co. found themselves in Dubai working for their arch nemesis, and Nate’s former partner, Sterling (Mark Sheppard). What was at stake here? A nuclear warhead possibly falling into the wrong hands. Oh, and a lovely twist at the end revealing that Sterling also used Nate to exonerate his chess-prodigy daughter, Olivia, from the team’s mark, who was her stepfather.
09: The Jailhouse Job
The team gave us the “full Shawshank” in this one, with Nate actually masterminding an entire con from behind bars. Not only did their plan have to somehow spring Nate from the big house, but it also needed to put and end to the CEO of a privatized prison who bribes judges to deliver harsh sentences for minor offenses – keeping his joint at a minimal 74% occupancy. Yes, an evil plot ripped straight from Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story. By the end, Nate was out and the mark was framed for helping Nate escape.
08: The Three-Card Monte Job
Enter Nate’s dad, Jimmy – played by Tom Skerritt. Father, teacher, crook, adversary. This was a fantastic episode the resulted in Nate just barely beating his dad at his own game, which then resulted in Jimmy, for the first time, expressing pride in his son. Which was doubly-awesome considering that Nate had, you know, made his father the target of the Russian mob in order to get him on a boat to Ireland, chasing him out of the freakin’ country. Plus, Doctor Who fans must have gotten a kick out of Elliot and Hardison playing Detectives Moffat and Davies.
07: The Second David Job
Nothing would even be more personal for Nate in the second episode of a two-part Season 1 finale. Not only did he have to get his team back together three months after they got scattered to the wind in “The First David Job,” but he still had to exact revenge on Ian Blackpoole for playing an integral role in the death of his son. This job was made all the more sweet by the fact that Nate boldly walked up to Blackpoole in public and told him, to his face, that he would steal both statues of David right out from under his nose. Of course, that declaration itself was part of the con and things wound up playing out even greater than Nate’s initial threat.
06: The Rundown Job
The mid-season finale this past summer split the team into two crime-fighting squads. While Nate and Sophie tangled with Sterling in “The Frame Up Job,” Parker, Hardison and Elliot banded together to stop a domestic terrorist chemical attack in D.C. Definitely the more enjoyable of the two split-off episodes, “The Rundown Job” also wound up being, in retrospect, a pilot for what could be a Leverage 2.0, as seen in the series finale. It was also fun to see Adam Baldwin reprise his role as Colonel Vance (from just a quick cameo in “The (Very) Big Bird Job”).
05: The Cross My Heart Job
In one of the most satisfying saves of the team’s career, Nate and the team, raced against time to thwart a cruel millionaire defense contractor (James Tolkan) from stealing a heart-on-ice from an airport as it was being rushed to an awaiting 15-year-old transplant recipient. See, the a-hole CEO was too old to land his own transplant so he decided to swipe one by taking the transplant nurse’s daughter hostage. Nate, remembering his own son and going dark, calls the CEO, Dean Chesney (Dick Cheney?), and actually threatens to kill him if the boy dies. Then, in the end, Nate makes one more call to tell Chesney that not only is he going to die from a bad heart, but that his funds are being monitored to make sure he doesn’t try to buy or steal another one.
04: The Two Live Crew Job
In the best, and most believable, goofball episode that Leverage has ever done, Nate and his crew meet their dopplegangers, in the form of Marcus Starke (Griffin Dunne), Chaos (Wil Wheaton), Mikel Dayan (Noa Tishby) and Apollo (played by the show’s actual grift consultant Apollo Robbins). As it turns out, one of the keys to Nate’s ultimate win was Sophie, who had no double/equal, and the true villain/turncoat was revealed to be Chaos.
03: The Long Goodbye Job
Leverage signed off in style with an episode filled with fake deaths, trojan horses and a secret “black book” file that contained all of the heinous corporate thievery that our government chose to overlook in the name of “order.” With plenty of wonderful nods, camera shots and dialogue that called back to the original pilot episode, “The Long Goodbye” ended with Parker leading Hardison and Elliot on new adventures while Nate and Sophie got engaged and retired to the shadows.
02: The Boiler Room Job
As probably an episode that most people overlook, “The Boiler Room Job” wound up being one of the most rewarding Leverage episodes I ever done seen. Sure, the mark for the episode, Greg “The Mako” Sherman,” was a bit overcooked, but the best part of this chapter was that it took the con that sank Ocean’s 12 and put it to work perfectly. Essentially, since Nate’s team was going up against the son of a famous grifter, who knew every con in the book, they concocted an extremely elaborate fake con to distract him. A con that they knew he’d know was a con the entire time. So, in a sense, they didn’t run any con on him at all and just had Hardison electronically steal money from his accounts the entire time. Having all of Sherman’s victims be the inept players in the “Big Store” at the end was great too.
01: The Bank Shot Job
This episode, from back in the first season, was the first one that made me realize that Leverage could pull off some wildly imaginative, yet grounded, cons. The crew had to rob a bank that was already being robbed – while half the team were being held hostage in the bank itself. I mean, that’s a killer log line right there. I also appreciate the fact that the episode started in mid-con, with Nate and Sophie trying to take down a corrupt judge. It helped round out the show, letting us know that worthwhile grifts and cons were taking place off-screen and in between episodes. This was also the first episode to feature Parker and Hardison playing phony FBI agents – something that would come into play time and time again.
Follow Matt Fowler on Twitter at @TheMattFowler