Episode: Leverage 1.03 – “The Two-Horse Job”
Original Air Date: December 16, 2008
In this episode, the father of an old “acquaintance” of Elliott (named Aimee Martin and played by Jaime Ray Newman, Tess from Eureka) contacts the team because he is being blamed for a fire in which several horses were killed. The stable belonged to the father, Mr. Martin, and he was part owner of the horses. He doesn’t want money. All he wants is his only surviving horse back — and for the owner never to work again.
The con this time is a “Lost Heir” con, but with the twist of the horse being the lost heir. Sophie plays a Southern Belle (with a perfect accent, naturally) who, along with Nate and Elliott, try to sell an established thoroughbred to Foss (the owner of the horses) as the lost heir to some Chinese horse (of course Sophie can speak Mandarin) that somehow escaped a government crackdown. Along the way, Nate’s former rival, Sterling (played by Mark A. Sheppard of Firefly and BSG fame), begins an investigation into the fire because the horses were insured by his company. In the end, Foss is fooled into signing papers that get him accused of insurance fraud by Sterling in front of a group of investors that he had lined up. The stable owner gets his horse plus some cash, and the Leverage teams nets around $12 million.
Of course there are complications along the way, including a traffic jam that ends up causing Elliott to ride one of the stolen horses to the stable just in time to save the day. How cool is that? I always knew Lindsey could ride a horse (um, wait — wrong show…). And there’s the big reveal which shows the audience that what we thought we were going to see isn’t what it seemed. When Foss and company show up to scam the “lost heir’s” ID chip to identify it as the right horse, we assume it will be the same horse he just left, but Parker and Hardison have switched the names and numbers of the stalls. Since they all look the same, Foss doesn’t even realize what has happened. Of course this is what leads to his aforementioned downfall.
Sophie and Parker both really shine in this episode. Sophie switching between perfect Mandarin (well, I assume it’s perfect — I don’t actually speak it. I’m just a linguist, not a Chinese scholar) and Southern Belle definitely makes for a great viewing experience. Gina Bellman is certainly an underrated actress, at least here in the US. And when Elliott calls her “Miss Katherine,” I just about died laughing. Parker has some of the best lines in this episode. She reveals that she once saw a horse kill a clown (in a flashback we learn that it was a man in a horse costume who beat a clown to death) and so is afraid of both horses and clowns. When she finally has to confront a horse in the end of the episode, she tells the team, “Horses are much less murderous than I originally thought.” To quote Dr. Horrible: “Hilarious!”
Parker’s budding relationship with Hardison continues to grow. Referring to a lock on a door, she says to him, “Can you hack it?” to which an incredulous Hardison replies, “Hack the lock. You still don’t understand what I do.” She also sums up Sterling’s role rather nicely: “He’s like Nate. Evil Nate.” I sometimes wonder if Joss is ghost-writing for the show.
Speaking of Sterling (he’ll be recurring in future episodes, of course), he and Nate have now become rivals on opposite sides of the field instead of in the same company: “You just think you’re above the law,” says Sterling. “Oh, no, I just like to think of it as I pick up where the law leaves off,” Nate replies.
All in all, this is a good, solid episode. I suspect, however, that if you aren’t hooked yet, and aren’t hooked by this one, you’re not likely to enjoy the rest of the episodes, either. The setup for the shows is similar from here on out, and the interactions continue in much the same vein. Maybe, though, you could skip ahead to second season, ’cause things start to take a turn at that point (yes, I’m trying to get more viewers — there’s already a third season ordered, but I’d love to see a fourth! Why do you think I’m writing these reviews?).