In the thirteenth episode of the fifth season of Leverage, the team tries to take down a corrupt wine connoisseur and vineyard owner, and then MY HEART CANNOT HANDLE THIS. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to watch Leverage.
Trigger Warning: For talk of racism and exploitation of migrant workers.
Oh, god, this was a great episode, and I am way too close to the series finale, so Iâ€™m going to stay in denial of the inevitable end. I WILL DO IT.
I have one nitpick for this episode, and itâ€™s a pretty big one. I wouldnâ€™t necessarily call myself that picky of a television fan, and I often suspend my sense of disbelief. Occasionally, I have certain issues when it comes to representation, sure, but Iâ€™ve been able to enjoy Leverage without feeling the need to tear this apart. I enjoyed this episode, too, but there was one aspect of this that was too glaring for me not to say anything.
Most wineries on the west coast use migrant workers to pick their grapes. Most of those workers are from Central and Southern America. The issues that are brought up here in â€œThe Corkscrew Jobâ€ affect those workers and have been for many, many decades. Historically, thatâ€™s whoâ€™s been on the receiving end of that kind of exploitation, so it felt really, really weird to see that story given to a bunch of white actors. It wasnâ€™t believable to me. Also, I donâ€™t know that the weather in rural Oregon is at all comparable to the weather that youâ€™d normally see in places like Sonoma or the central valley where a great deal of the vineyards are. I know this is an important story to tell, but I wish that the producers had not stripped this story of a very vital context.
Thereâ€™s a reason why wineries have been able to pay their workers poorly and overwork them to death â€“ literally so. And thatâ€™s because itâ€™s so easy to exploit people who arenâ€™t American citizens, who are desperate to escape their countries to look for a better life here. Itâ€™s easier to pay migrant workers under the table and dodge both taxes and a legal responsibility. Itâ€™s a cost benefit analysis worked out in real time, and I donâ€™t think the story works nearly as well when you use white American citizens.
Sophie is absolutely incredible throughout this episode, and itâ€™s great to experience another con where sheâ€™s largely responsible for the work on the mark. Frank Madigan is IMMENSELY disgusting, as is Leonard, but I certainly wanted to see Sophie lead Madigan to his own destruction. Heâ€™s one of those antagonists who is portrayed without a single redeeming quality, and thus, I was very invested in his life being ruined forever. Not only is he a misogynist, he treats everyone he works with terribly. He has no problem cutting corners and risking lives in order to increase his already enormous amount of wealth. In short, heâ€™s everything that the Leverage team hates.
So, in classic Leverage fashion, Sophie uses Madiganâ€™s bigotry and weaknesses against him. She appeals to his sexual objectification of her so that she can keep his interest. She performs for him in just the right way to win his confidence, and itâ€™s so fucking satisfying because HE HAS NO IDEA SHEâ€™S CONNING HIM. That initial wine taste test scene is the perfect example of that because she conned him into thinking that he was drinking a more expensive wine. She gains his trust, and she gets to quietly gloat because she just openly demonstrated that she can con him and he doesnâ€™t notice at all. I LOVE IT.
Actually, so much of the con happens in the open here, and itâ€™s a lot of fun. Hardisonâ€™s station? Set up in the literal center of the winery. Weâ€™ve got INTERN PARKER, who cons Madigan and the wine auditor while inches away from him. And Eliot gets to keep an eye on the workers while Leonard looks on, unaware of who he is. BRAVO. The unsuspecting nature of this is deeply satisfying to watch because it means that the gloat at the end of this is going to be so much more beautiful. Which is why it was so shocking when the audit con failed! They all did exactly what they needed to in order to ensure that Madiganâ€™s Thomas Jefferson wine failed the audit, and yet, Madigan was actually one step ahead of them with a bribe.
So the team gets one more step ahead of Madigan. BLESS.
I like a good romance. I do! I donâ€™t know if thatâ€™s something I enjoyed years ago, but it definitely thrills me to watch a show or a book pull one off in a believable, evocative way. While Iâ€™m certainly more invested in the Parker/Hardison pairing on this show, I love that Leverage has also developed Nate/Sophie in the manner they have. Itâ€™s been a slow process, one with a lot of obstacles and close calls over the years, but weâ€™re at a point in this pairing where Nate can start to open up. I think itâ€™s important to note that, since Sophie was long ago ready for this relationship to grow into more than a friendship. Nate was the one who had to make the most changes in himself to make that possible.
So itâ€™s rewarding to see him make gestures like the gifted wine at the end of â€œThe Corkscrew Job.â€ Itâ€™s more than just a sign that things have moved forward; itâ€™s a confirmation of the kind of love that he feels for Sophie. You can read the same sort of desire and loyalty in the way Hardison speaks to Parker or the affection they express towards one another. These little things add up to something incredible.
The video for â€œThe Corkscrew Jobâ€ can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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