In the tenth episode of the first season of Leverage, Nate demands that Parker attend jury duty, where she not only discovers a case, but learns how to socialize with others. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Leverage.
Trigger Warning: For talk of anxiety, depression.
I LOVE EVERYTHING THAT THIS SHOW CHOOSES TO BE.
Two Parker-centric stories??? IN A ROW? What television god have I honored enough to deserve this??? This fits so perfectly after “The Stork Job” because it accepts that Parker had a different upbringing than anyone else on the team, and it then shows us how she can learn to cope with it with the support of her friends. IT’S A CIRCLE OF FRIENDSHIP AND YOU CAN’T TAKE THIS AWAY FROM ME. I found it so empowering to watch Parker struggle to socialize, which is something I had to learn y’all. I WAS NOT THE SOCIAL BUTTERFLY YOU SEE BEFORE YOU TODAY. I was fragile, a nervous wreck, and painfully shy in non-academic settings all through elementary school, junior high, and most of high school. My anxiety made matters worse, since… well, if you don’t have high amounts of anxiety, it might not make sense when I say that my mind regularly spiraled out of control just with the introduction of a negative thought. My brain tends toward the dramatic in this case, and I would totally imagine utterly absurd scenarios, and I would believe them, wholeheartedly.
I was more or less forced into being social, mostly because I had to be in order to survive in high school after running away from home. If I wanted to make sure that I had a place to stay, I’d have to be kind, charming, and socially “on” whenever I was at a friend’s house. If I wanted to make sure a teacher would give me extra time on an assignment because I was working 30-40 hours a week to support myself, I’d have to be as nice as pie. I learned to be social through sheer force, and I admit that it’s helped me out countless times in the years since. I do get a lot of people asking me how I navigate the Mark Does Stuff world – particularly my events and conventions – with chronic anxiety and depression. It’s not easy, and I wouldn’t say otherwise. But watching Parker try to make her way through the smallest of situations – small talk, kindness, persuasion – reminded me of what it was like to teach myself this sort of stuff. One of the most frustrating things about not feeling “normal” in social situations is that it seems that everyone else does this without effortless, when the truth is that this is hardly the case. Lots of us have to battle anxiety and fears and nervousness in social situations, and that helped me get past some of my initial problems.
I also had my own Sophie. My high school English teacher/speech coach Ms. Alford was a huge help, and I had to actually be sat down and taught how to speak in public. I didn’t overcome that fear until the end of my senior year. I was closer than ever to freedom from the things that kept me afraid, and I had had practice. I had learned where to put my hands. I had learned what to do to memorize long speeches. I had learned how to look at an audience to make them feel like you’re speaking directly to them. And I learned that a little bit of fear is okay. It’s natural. Hell, I still get nervous before most of my events and panels. That may strike you as strange because… well, I do this so often. But Ms. Alford taught me to let that emotion in and to conquer it, and I would not be who I am today without her.
In hindsight, I can see a parallel journey between Hardison and Parker. Both characters are thrust into circumstances that stick them outside their comfort zones, and they’re forced to learn new skills while they are using them. I think there was no character better suited for a courtroom con than Hardison, who is brilliantly flamboyant at times. It’s a deliberate tactic of his that puts other people into a sense of unease. He distracts them with his behavior, and it allows the rest of the team to complete the sleight of hand. But in the courtroom, as creative as Hardison is, he can only bullshit so much. The writers don’t let us forget the stakes here, because if Hardison and Parker fail, a widow’s life will be ruined even more than it already was.
So how does Hardison find it within him to win a court case without being a lawyer? Once more, the show recalls a character’s past in order to give it contextual relevance in the present time. We already knew that Hardison was in foster care with his grandmother, but “The Juror Number Six” job tells us more about him. Raised in a Jehovah’s Witness family, he learned to be charismatic and vocal through proselytizing alongside his Nana. Someone taught him, and someone had to teach Parker. But in this case, Nate helps Hardison realize that all he needed was some self-esteem and a little bit of realness.
A con within a jury room. Does this also count as a heist since they technically stole a jury verdict? YES, I’M COUNTING IT. I love that this first season is so full of examples of the writers fucking with the format. This recent batch of episodes has been so much fun, y’all, and it feels like there’s a ridiculous amount of potential in this formula. And that’s exciting! I don’t think Leverage is ever going to become a highly serialized show, and yet I can totally see how it’ll keep me hooked regardless of that. THROUGH PERFECT CHARACTERS. Holy shit, I love these goobers so much. SO MUCH.
The video for “The Juror Number Six Job” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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