Mark Watches ‘Leverage’: S04E10 – The Queen’s Gambit Job

In the tenth episode of the fourth season of Leverage, Sterling asks for help from Nate. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Leverage.

Goddamn, I LOVE THIS SHOW. 

The Con

LIKE??? A CON WHERE STERLING ACTUALLY ASKS FOR HELP? A SUPER IMPOSSIBLE HEIST THAT BRINGS PARKER AND HARDISON CLOSER TOGETHER? NATE BEING AN INCREDIBLE CHESS PLAYER AND NOT HAVING TO CHEAT IN ORDER TO BE SO GOOD AT THE GAME????

This is a doozy of an episode, framed by the surreal moment at the beginning: James Sterling, coming to Nate, and asking for help. Even when we learn what his true intentions were, it doesn’t negate the fact that Sterling truly did need Nate and his team. Initially, though, we’re led to believe that this is an issue of international security, since a nuclear engineer is about to sell a delicate weight to some terrorists from Kazakhstan. The story itself felt a little flat, which I should have realized was a clue about Sterling’s real intentions. Still, it’s a story about terrorism in the Middle East; it’s not exactly groundbreaking.

But that doesn’t really end up being the focus of “The Queen’s Gambit.” It’s the literal and metaphorical game of chess that’s at the heart of it. The writers consider each member of the team as a chess piece while they’re also having Nate play chess against a number of competitors at a tournament that Robert Livingston is hosting. It’s such a layered episode when you think back on it, especially once you consider that it’s really Sterling who was playing the chess game.

Still, let’s talk about the components of this, because I have THOUGHTS.

Nate

I know I said this on video, but HOLY SHIT, I loved that Nate had to actually try to beat a lot of these players instead of relying on a con. While Sophie did help him a couple times, that doesn’t mean he was a terrible chess player. His match against Olivia? So exciting, y’all! I knew that something was awry before that climactic scene, but seeing Nate use the Queen’s Gambit? That was my clue that something else had truly transpired before my eyes. It wasn’t surprising that the Leverage team had walked into a trap, but I didn’t figure out what had actually happened until it was spelled out to me. BRAVO, LEVERAGE.

So can I assume that the name that Nate gives Sterling is Latimer? I’m gonna do that.

Eliot

Why am I so amused by angry Eliot? Why does it fill me with such joy? Why am I so entertained by his need for revenge? What have I become?

Parker / Hardison

Truthfully, this is my life now. This fucking show made me tear up because these two goobers used a Dance Dance Revolution gamepad to slow dance on. It rendered me a mess. I shall not recover.

Why is that, though? Why am I so affected by this pairing? I think that, in general, I’m a sad sack of emotions anyway, so it takes very little to set me off. But as slow as the Parker/Hardison ship has moved, it is real. The show knows how to move it forward without relying on us catching on to subtext. What really gets me, though, is the tenderness. It’s the respect. It’s watching Hardison openly acknowledge how new and difficult this journey is for Parker and refusing to rush her through it. He knows that she’s used to being on her own, and that means he needs to confirm to her – both out loud and with his actions – that he’s got her back. I appreciate that because it’s a caring, thoughtful thing for him to do. It shows all of us that he is willing to spend as much time on this relationship on Parker’s terms.

And what’s more romantic than giving someone a bright pink parachute so they can base jump off the second tallest building in the world?

Sterling

I don’t think we ever knew much about Sterling’s past, did we? Like Nate, the audience learns about his past family from this episode. The man had a wife and still has a daughter, but his life took him away from them. What happened? What did he do? It was kind of surreal to me in that scene to realize how similar Sterling and Nate were. Both of them are so far from where they started when they worked at I.Y.S. How much of that is due to their own egos? Their ambitions? What have they sacrificed along the way?

I REALLY WANT ANOTHER STERLING EPISODE BECAUSE I NEED TO KNOW SO MUCH MORE ABOUT HIM. I think it’s pretty damn incredible that halfway through the fourth season, this show can still surprise me like this. Leverage, how are you so good?

The video for “The Queen’s Gambit Job” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– The Mark Does Stuff Tour 2015 is now live and includes dates across the U.S., Canada, Europe, the U.K., and Ireland. Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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