Mark Watches ‘Leverage’: S04E16 – The Gold Job

In the sixteenth episode of the fourth season of Leverage, Hardison decides to run a job. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Leverage.

In hindsight, I don’t think this is an easy episode to watch, and I appreciate that. It’s a lot more fulfilling to me that we get a chance to see Hardison shine and struggle with his own insecurities and shortcomings. That’s the kind of well-rounded storytelling that I want from the fiction I consume. Hardison is flawed in his approach to conning the Madsens, but the show isn’t cruel in displaying that. Instead, this becomes a learning opportunity for him, one that allows him to grow closer to the team and to Nate.

But let me back up a bit. I obviously am going to love any episode that focuses so heavily on Hardison. LET’S GET THAT OUT OF THE WAY. The opening scene demonstrated just how important he was to the team and how often they took him for granted. That’s not a malicious thing, and the writers play this humorously. Without his technological savviness, they’re left struggling to open a web browser. Of course, now I can see precisely where Hardison went wrong in conning the Madsens. As amusing as it was to watch him control this con, the clue to everything was right in the beginning. Why did he choose this specific job as the one he’d run? Because it was so simple. Because it was risk-free. And then he proceeded to load that con with risks and complexity!

Still, I can’t deny that it was a whole lot of fun to see how he did this differently than Nate. He was more consciously organized, sometimes overly so. He wasn’t quick to shut down suggestions and tweaks from the team, often incorporating them into the con if it suited it. But lord, I loved his use of video game theory the most. It was so fascinating to see how he designed a con meant to pique Barbara’s interest in games. And aren’t most games a con anyway? Aren’t they manipulating us to care about things that ultimately aren’t real and don’t matter? So he sets up a treasure hunt, hacking Tommy Madsen’s computer to put the idea of a “treasure” into his mind. He puts a fake relic into his hand, which then brought Barbara into the game.

And then? Escalation. Every time the Madsens got a little bit more interested in this supposed fortune, Hardison’s game gave them another obstacle. When that was overcome, the next obstacle was set, just a tad harder than the last. It’s classic game psychology! Unfortunately, this is Hardison we’re talking about. So I didn’t find his failure to nab the marks to be out of character. Truthfully, his worst skill as a conman is his grifting. He’s only good at being ridiculous, absurdly so. (Which was a clue to the ending anyway. What does Hardison do best as a grifter? He provides a distraction so the other members of the team can perfect their own heists or cons.) The final touch that this con needed, if it was ever going to work, was subtlety. And he blew it, overselling the property buy at the very end and causing the marks to doubt the veracity of it all.

Like I said, it’s not easy to watch, and I was very sad to see him fail like this. I wanted him to prove himself to the rest of the team. However, I was thinking about this all wrong, wasn’t I? Hardison had already done this. He’d won Eliot over long ago with Mr. Punchy, but did he need to win him over? (Actually, I feel like you need to perpetually win Eliot over, so maybe that’s a bad example. HE’S SO HILARIOUSLY ANGRY IN THIS EPISODE, I LOVE IT.) The truth is that Hardison long ago proved his worth to this team, and showing that he could lead it wasn’t something they needed to trust and respect him. Still, Nate ultimately views this all as a chance to teach Hardison something about running cons, and I think that made this entire experience worth it. It’s typical of Nate to do something like mailing Hardison a letter with the details of the con ahead of time. But it was also a great way to demonstrate why Nate’s techniques work so often. He comes up with the simplest and most risk-free plan possible, no matter how dirty or boring it is, so that he always has a back-up. He never starts with a complex con like Hardison did here. Start simple, work it up, then make sure you’ve got a net to catch you.

Excellent advice.

I also wanted to note that practically everything we see in this episode is real otherwise. Cash for gold business that use mail-in services? Totally real. The underground tunnels in Portland? Also real. AND VOODOO DOUGHNUTS. Jesus, y’all, I cannot wait to go back there later this year so I can have a thousand of them.

The video for “The Gold 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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