Mark Watches ‘Leverage’: S01E11 – The 12-Step Job

In the eleventh episode of the first season of Leverage, the team runs a con in rehab, only to discover that maybe someone on their team belongs there. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Leverage.

Trigger Warning: For talk of addiction and alcoholism.

This episode did not go where I expected, and it’s part of the reason it’s SO GOOD and so deeply uncomfortable. LET US DISCUSS.

The Con

It’s just so much fun to see how often the show fucks with their own narrative patterns. I KNOW I ALREADY SAID THIS! But here, we get a con where the Leverage team comes to realize that their villain is… well, not much of a villain. He’s not a hero, either, and it’s within this grey area that they have to accept that their own roles must change. It seemed incredibly easy to paint Jack Hurley as the antagonist, too! He bolts out of his office when the SEC comes calling; he clearly has stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars; he also appears very willing to spend it without any care in the world. For someone like Michelle Colby, who tried to raise more money for her food bank, this is a clear case of good and bad. It fits perfectly within the Leverage team’s qualifications!

Except as “The 12-Step Job” unfolds, this only gets more disastrous and more complicated. The introduction of the rival gangs suggests that Jack’s money problems are worse than just theft, but the bomb? THIS IS MUCH MORE THAN A “PROBLEM.” Someone was willing to kill Jack out of revenge, and I doubted that Michelle Colby had anything to do with that. So what happens when Nate finds out that Jack stole the money just so he could give it back? It’s a direct reference to the work the Leverage team does. Is it okay to break the law or do “immoral” things if you’re ultimately trying to do good? When do the means justify the ends?

Thankfully, the writers don’t ignore that Jack still stole, and they also don’t ignore the fact that most people wouldn’t exactly feel thankful for such an act. I was so thrilled that Jack didn’t “get” Michelle’s affection or gratitude by the end of this episode. That wasn’t the point. The Leverage team had to re-assess their job, but Michelle was still the true victim here. Jack’s theft raised the ire of the multiple international groups, so it’s not like he’s entirely innocent. He just had good intentions that got horribly muddled along the way. In the end, Michelle gets her money, Jack gets a new identity and a chance to start over, and the gangs all believe that Jack is dead.


I think nearly every character in this show got something from this job, though. And I’d like to think that Hardison came to respect Eliot for his work in this episode, as well as vice versa. This is the first time (I think!) that both characters worked the entire job with one another, and GOOD LORD, they went through some shit. That bomb sequence was not at all okay, but I think it demonstrated to Eliot that Hardison does have some value in the field. Would Eliot have been able to escape that situation if Hardison was not there? And Hardison is not exactly a great fighter, so he relies mostly on Eliot’s know-how.

I ship them, for the record. Did you even have to ask after that one scene?


Her role in this episode was the most exciting and surprising one for me. At no point did I feel like the writers were belittling her for finding solace and guidance in rehab. Gods, that whole bit where Sophie explains to Dr. Frank why Parker needed a place like Second Act is so wonderful, y’all. The truth is that Parker does need extra care because of what happened to her as she was growing up. Within the framework of that kind of therapy, she actually makes genuine progress in understanding why she’s developed such an affinity for stealing. AND IT’S TREATED AS VALID BY THE NARRATIVE ITSELF. I just love Parker a lot, y’all??? A WHOLE LOT.


Like I said, it’s very easy for me to empathize with Nate and his alcoholism, even if it manifested in me in a way that was drastically different from him. I was not a public drunk, and if you went back to my high school and asked anyone about my drinking, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who even knew I did drink. My alcoholism was a coping mechanism, a way of dealing with the trauma of abuse and to escape the existential despair I felt in that awful, oppressive city I lived in. With that came a pervasive shame, one that made me hide my drinking in plain sight. I wanted desperately to feel accepted, and yet I was terrified of anyone finding out that I was doing something so… what? Sinful? Wrong? Evil? I toyed with how to define it, and I don’t even know if I ever did. I just knew that I had to keep it a secret because I was aware of how bad it was.

The denial was the worst part, though, because I knew I was addicted, and I gave myself every possible reason to keep it going. I enabled myself, I justified it as normal, and I didn’t stop until it got so bad that I nearly didn’t come back from it. The days after I stopped (and became straight edge, incidentally) were horrific. Sickening. Unbearably painful. It was a nightmare to have to fight an addiction, and I did it cold turkey and completely alone. I couldn’t ask anyone for help because then I’d have to deal with the shame of people finding out, and I knew that would lead me to drink, too. I quit over the Thanksgiving weekend in 2001 because I knew I’d have time off from classes, and I holed myself up in a friend’s bedroom, sweating and crying, and it is not something I’d ever like to relive.

So it was hard watching Nate because I know how powerful an addiction can be. It’s powerful enough to make you do irrational things in the face of undeniable evidence. It’s powerful enough to make you manipulate those around you into feeling complicit in your disease. It’s powerful enough to control every aspect of your life. It makes me sad that while Parker found joy in Second Act, Nate just found more anger. He found more justification for his behavior, and despite that Sophie tried as hard as she could to get him to be honest, his addiction was stronger than his willpower.

It’s just so distressing to watch, and I hope Nate finds a way to beat it.

The video for “The 12-Step Job” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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