Monday, August 1, 2011

Leverage - "The Carnival Job"

This is a review that I wrote for another site. They did not want to post it as is, so it is posted in what I consider to be a very different form elsewhere. Having written it, I also wanted the satisfaction of posting it... So... I hope you caught the episode because it was great!

REVIEW: Leverage: “The Carnival Job”
Rating: 4 stars

Airdate: July 31, 2011, 9/8c on TNT

          “The Carnival Job” has lots of twists and turns to keep everyone guessing and on their toes – both on the team and in the audience. Like last week, this episode begins with a legal issue – which may be the perfect hook for me! This week they get the legal issue more correct than they did last week. A company can claim anything you work on while at work belongs to them – in this case a computer chip -  if you are employed under a work-for-hire contract. But the writers on this episode, M. Scott Veach and Paul Guyot, quickly shift our expectations about how the issue is going to play out when Connell (Erik Jensen), this week’s mark, actually steals the computer chip at issue for himself.
          The episode puts us a bit off kilter right at the outset by having Hardison (Aldis Hodge) run the interview with the client with Nate (Timothy Hutton) instead of Sophie (Gina Bellman). It makes sense, of course, because Jeffrey Thorne (John San Nicolas) is trying to retrieve the computer chip he designed. The team prefers to go after bad guys, so as the story unfolds and it appears Connell has a hard luck story himself, Sophie points out “That’s not greed we’re looking at, that’s grief.” Eliot says “I thought we were supposed to hate the guys that we take down?” Nate clarifies it’s “Not a requirement. A Perk. Usually.” As so often happens, Nate, Sophie, and Eliot find something in Connell’s story to relate to.
          Eliot ends up guarding Molly (Lea Zawada), Connell’s daughter, as his cover. She turns out to be wise beyond her years, but also bitter and lonely because of her father’s withdrawal after her mother’s death. Christian Kane turns in a wonderful performance as Eliot is not quite sure what to make of her, but quickly forms a bond with her – no doubt seeing himself in her prickly exterior. For her part, Zawada does a terrific job hitting all the marks as hurt daughter, smart kid, and scared hostage.
          As with every episode, there is a lot of humor in the episode. Sophie and Nate as over the top house designers/architects are hysterical. I love it when they play off each other, seemingly goading each other into increasingly outrageous behaviour. The other running gag in the episode is Hardison’s new invention, the Parker 2000, which he made to help Parker (Beth Riesgraf) and even based it on her. Parker is convinced he made it to replace her.
          The plot gets a little predictable when Molly gets kidnapped – at the Carnival – and the team suddenly switches teams to help Connell get his daughter back from the Russians who were supposed to buy the computer chip. And so it becomes “The Carnival Job.” I pretty much pegged Daria (Anna Lieberman) the Eastern European nanny as being up to no good the second she suddenly appeared from seemingly nowhere.
          What really saves this episode from a predictable ending, however, is the masterful direction of Frank Oz. I’ve long been a fan of his directing, so I was excited from the moment I saw his directing credit. The scene that focuses on Eliot talking to Molly and trying to get an idea of where she is, is fantastic as Oz just keeps the camera circling Eliot at high speed. It reflects Molly’s terror and disorients us and reflects Eliot’s desperate attempts to be looking everywhere at once for her.
          I’m always happiest when we have a spectacular Eliot fight scene and the one in the hall of mirrors may be the best one yet. Again, hats off to Oz for this beautifully shot sequence – with mirror everywhere! And hats off to Kane for doing a good portion of the scene with his eyes closed! Maybe he was cheating, but they sure looked closed to me! It’s a beautifully choreographed and executed fight. I’m also pretty sure Kane doesn’t cheat the shot in which he bursts a balloon with his back to it by tossing a dart over his shoulder. But I would like to know how many takes it took!

We have a week’s hiatus and then Leverage returns with two episodes.

Tune in to Leverage Sundays at 9/8c on TNT.