Episode: Leverage 1.04 – “The Miracle Job”
Original Air Date: December 23, 2008
In this episode, the Leverage team gets religion (sort of) and manages to “steal a miracle.” St. Nicholas church, which is run by Nate’s old friend and classmate (in seminary school, no less), is in danger of being closed by Andrew Grant, a developer who wants to put up a “lifestyle center” in the church’s place. Nate hears from his ex-wife about Father Paul (played by D.B. Sweeney, who I recognized as Goetz from Jericho, but has also been in many other shows) getting beaten up to discourage him from protesting the closing of the church. Nate determines that the Leverage team is going to help. He tries to sell the team on the idea, but Sophie cuts him off almost before he begins. They have come to trust him completely so he doesn’t need to convince them. This is a key moment because up to this point the other members of the team have been reluctant to make this a “permanent” thing.
The plan goes thusly: Hardison will fake a miracle (rather reluctantly) which will bring in believers who won’t let Grant shut down the church. Hardison creates a statue of St. Nicholas that seems to weep. Of course, the plan backfires when the Vatican becomes involved after the word gets out to the public (“Whoa, that’s a lot of public,” is Parker’s reply to the crowd outside the church).
And here the con begins. The team is going to make the statue disappear “miraculously” during the Sunday service so that Father Paul isn’t implicated in the hoax. While the congregation is praying, Parker is lowered on a harness to pick up the statue. It turns out that they’ve replaced the statue with another, lighter version. When the congregation opens their eyes, the statue is gone! A little girl says it was an angel who did it — she saw Parker, who shushed her and winked. Actually, the disappearance was a set up. Hardison drives up in a van with the real statue in it, asking for Andrew Grant. It seems that Grant somehow rented the van to pull off the hoax. With Elliott inciting the crowd against him, Grant is taken away by the police who were called by Sophie (who has been playing a reporter that takes over as Grant’s press secretary).
I really like the religiosity of this episode, even though I myself am an atheist. It’s interesting to see a group of thieves wrestling with the idea of a god who might punish them for this particular con, but apparently not any others. It’s also rather startling to discover that Nate went to seminary, but it makes sense since he is the “white knight” as Sophie calls him. He no longer seems that interested in religion, however, as he seems to blame god for his son’s death. In the end, though, we do see that perhaps he may be changing when he lights a candle for his son in St. Nicholas church, the very church in which his son was baptized by Father Paul.
Somewhat more surprising is Hardison’s religion. His grandmother drilled morality and religion into him from a young age, and he doesn’t want to disappoint her as much as (or possibly more than) he doesn’t want to disappoint god. The contrast between Nate and Hardison can be seen when Nate first suggests they fake the miracle: “As long as I don’t have to do anything immoral,” says Hardison. “No, absolutely not,” Nate replies. “Just, you know. Figure out how to fake a miracle.” To which Hardison says, “We all going to Hell.”
Parker has a much more simplistic take on religion: she insists that St. Nicholas is actually Santa Claus. Several times throughout the episode she makes reference to this, despite repeated attempts to correct her. She may finally be convinced in the end, however, when Sophie points out that “St. Nicholas… is the patron saint of thieves.” Actually, according to Wikipedia it’s “repentant” thieves, but the point still stands.
This episode had me laughing out loud several times, perhaps even more than some of the previous ones. At the beginning, for example, the team talks to Sophie about her previous night’s performance in Death of a Salesman. It was, of course, awful, and Sophie played Willie Loman. Elliott can think of no worse time, including the time when he had a gun to his head that only didn’t go off due to a misfire (as we see in a flashback). Nate’s reaction is particularly good: “They oughta call it Death of a Saleswoman,” he says. “Nate, I played the part as a man,” Sophie points out. “Yes, and brilliantly.” Maybe Nate didn’t actually make it to the performance.
Another funny part is when Grant’s plans for the lifestyle center seem to have been thwarted by the miracle. His new plan is to build Bibletopia — complete with a lake that will part (à la the Red Sea) every half hour and St. Nicholas bobble-heads (yes, they really did build them for the show, and Grant demonstrates them to Sophie, bobbing his own head in imitation). The idea is just so ludicrous (even to a nonbeliever like me) you can’t help but laugh at the sheer audacity!
Finally, we also find out one of Hardison’s niches: fighting the injured. When he and Elliott are investigating the beating of Father Paul, Hardison pushes down one of the cholos (Hardison’s description, not mine!) they’ve tracked, thus exposing the injured shoulder that Father Paul managed to give him. “How ’bout that, baby? You see me?” Hardison crows as he and Elliott leave. “He was injured,” Elliott growls back. “Well, somebody gotta fight the injured. Shoot, that’s my niche!” And we thought he was only good for computer hacking.