Tuesday, July 20, 2010


The Scheherazade Job

Fancy executive office. Alexander Moto serves up a cake shaped like his African homeland of Wadata to a couple of businessmen. Wadata has lots of resources, like diamonds and some newly-discovered oil. Moto's brother is currently the president; he's not known as being business-friendly but Alexander is different. A businessman wants to know if Moto's sure he will succeed his brother. Moto says he's taking care of the opposition.

Boston street. Jane, a West African reporter, emerges from a building and heads to her car. She's on her phone, trying to get through to Mr. Moto. She's about to get in the car when she notices a ticket. It's not for her car. With a screech of tires, a car rounds the corner and heads for her. She dives into her car at the last minute and the assassin's car takes off the open car door she was just standing in front of.

Bar. Eliot and Hardison jostle in the doorway. Eliot knows he was invited by Nate to protect the client. They sit at a table with Nate and Hardison explains that he's on hand to learn Nate's job, for when he's running his own crew. Nate is surprised to hear it. Hardison explains that he's the Super Skrull, encompassing all the team's skills: hacking, grifting, thieving. Eliot wants to know about fighting; Hardison has a dog for that. Named Megabyte. (Megabite?) Nate tells Hardison he can't do his job. It's not about being smart. But before he can explain what it is about, Jane arrives. She has two large men trailing her. Eliot pretends to be a drunk who thinks one guy has his jacket that he left at the dry cleaners. The guy hits him to make him go away. Eliot breaks his fingers and thumps on the other guy for a bit. Then he looks like he's about to go all Bruce Lee on them, so they leave. Eliot sits back down and smirks at Hardison, "Can your dog do that?"

Jane talks about Wadata. Moto has children working his mines; they have to make quotas or they don't get paid. "Or worse," Eliot adds. He's fought in Africa, so he knows about child soldiers. Moto smuggles his diamonds into the US and launders them through real estate. The current president, who has labored to improve the standard of living, will be forced out by term limits, so Moto is positioning himself as his brother's successor. The president will come for a visit in four days, which will solidify Moto's heir status. Nate thinks the Justice Department can act on Moto when Jane's article is published. She says she already go them proof of Moto's crimes. They started an investigation, but then it didn't go anywhere. Nate knows how to find out what happened.

The Italian woman joins Nate in his car. She's dressed up, so Nate wonders if he dragged her out of a party. No, a date. With a fugitive who is no longer a fugitive. Nate processes that. They get to business. Moto feeds African jihadists to the CIA; he's a paid informant. Business concluded, the Italian woman invites Nate to dinner; she doesn't like to eat alone. Nate imagines how that would go. It ends with him being garrotted while she looks on. He pleads other plans.

HQ. Eliot, Sophie and Nate process the new information. Sophie bets the names Moto's providing aren't even jihadists, but his political rivals. Nate exposits that Moto bought at the peak of the real estate market, so the only thing keeping him afloat is the diamond money. And the best thing about smuggled diamonds? Sophie goes for the way the shimmer on the deck of a millionaire's yacht under the moonlight, but Eliot votes for the lack of insurance. If they steal the diamonds, Moto's empire collapses and he can't fund a bid for power.

Parker (with camera) and Hardison (in the van) are checking out Moto's properties. Hardison votes against the concert hall, until Parker admires the sturdiness of the foundation. She unlocks the exterior electical panel and finds a dedicated air line feeding into the basement. That means something delicate is being stored. Hardison discovers that Moto bought a Stradivarius for $4.5 million. Sophie connects the dots -- Moto has made himself a patron of the arts to get in with the old money crowd in Boston. But that's his vulnerability. His father sent him out of the country when he was young, he was educated in Europe and the US, he don't even speak his national language. Moto's problem is that Wadatans see him as an outsider and Parker's problem is that she needs to see the vault in order to break in. Nate has a plan.

Hardison and Eliot mock up some news stories that have Moto disparaging Wadata. Moto has an uncomfortable video chat with his brother, claiming he's being set up. He says his brother is judging him from the presidential "throne," which disappoints the president. His flunky wonders if the president is setting Moto up, but he suspects the reporter. The flunky mentions a call from -- "Christy Connolly," our favorite expert in "perception management." She offers references from the dictators of Uzbekistan and Myanmar; she's rebranding them as effective modern CEOs and can do them same for Moto. He figures she's asking him to pull out the checkbook and open schools and clinics, but she laughs. That just reminds people of how much money he has. But if he helps a single child, that makes him a hero. She gives him a folder on "Timmy" (with a picture of Hardison), a young taxi driver who emigrated from Wadata with the dream of studying violin at the New England Conservatory. Moto will get him in. The poor want clinics and schools, but they need heroes. Moto likes the sounds of this.

Hardison tells Nate that he played the violin until he was fourteen, and he was pretty good. He gave it up when he discovered computers, which are much better at displaying pictures of naked girls. Nate needs Hardison to get Moto to take him to the vault. Hardison shows off all the hacker gear he's surreptitiously packing; all the data will go up on the big screen for Nate and Parker. And by the way, he was serious about running his own crew one day, so what does Nate think he's missing? Nate runs off to find Eliot, leaving Hardison to wonder if perhaps it's rudeness he lacks.

Christy and Timmy are meeting Moto, who's all set to make Timmy's dream come true. Timmy is reluctant; he's just working for his family. After getting beaten up in his cab, he finds it hard to buy into the dream. Moto decides to show him what can be achieved in America, so they go down to the vault. Hardison's button camera shows a retinal scanner, and then they're in the vault, and there's the Stradivarius. Hardison is so gobsmacked he almost breaks character until Sophie prods him. With all the technology in the world, they still can't make violins today that sound as good and no one knows why. There's a log entry for a delivery from Wadata that went into the locker "Allegro" -- all the boxes are named after musical terms. Sophie has to prod Hardison again to get the button camera pointed in the right direction.

Nate wants to know how the break-in will go. Parker says it can't be done. No video cameras, because they have to be watched by people who can fall asleep. It's a state-of-the-art Glen Reeder vault that uses unhackable motion sensors. Nate has her check the log to see when it gets turned off. They disabled the sensors when the orchestra played the 1812 Overture, since the vibrations could have set them off. Nate has some instructions for Sophie. Down in the vault, Sophie has a proposal. The rural areas don't have newspapers or television, only radio. So they host a concert for the president in the concert hall, featuring Timmy. Timmy tries to look grateful.

HQ. Hardison comes down the spiral staircase, fuming about the violin. Nate wonders if he was napping; they need to get down to work. Hardison is still flipping out. Nate is dismissive; Hardison said he played the violin. "As a child!" Yeah, but Hardison is Super Skull. That's Super Skrull, who combines that powers of the Fantastic Four, "one of whom is not Itzhak Perlman." Sophie arrives; she helped Moto pick out [Rimsky-]Korsakov's Scheherazade, based on the Arabian Nights. Sophie calls Scheherazade "one of literature's all-time great grifters." What Hardison knows is that it ends with a difficult violin solo, which he'll have to play. Sophie ratchets up the pressure: Moto is going to have him play the Stradivarius. And the conductor needs to see him in two hours. Hardison huffs out. Sophie glances at the metronome in front of Nate and asks if he picked up any new skills in jail. Nate just smiles and says she did pick out Hardison as the best candidate.

Concert hall. The conductor introduces himself to Timmy and lays out his interpretation of the piece. Time to rehearse. Before he can play, Timmy "gets a phone call" -- his mother was in an accident with a moped. The conductor is sure Timmy can play the piece, so he sends him off to see to his mother.

HQ. Parker eats cereal as she studies the plans of the concert hall. Nate arrives and she gives him a walkthrough. They have a door with a 6-digit key code; Sophie is working on that. She's at the concert hall, lugging a couple of bags of equipment. The flunkies help her out with them and inspect them; she asks them to be gentle with the sensitive lens. Eliot, dressed as a maintenance man, walks past them and reaches the door. He sprays the keypad with something. Moto's flunky comes up and asks what he's doing in an off-limits area. Eliot gripes about getting the run-around and has to call his supervisor. He uses his phone as a mirror to watch as the flunky enters the code; he gets the first two numbers, then runs a black light to see which keys were touched for the rest. Parker will need time to go through the various combinations. Eliot will have to take care of the guard while she does. They don't have time to hack the retinal scanner, so Parker suggests blowing a hole in the ceiling of the vault. Hardison comes in. Nate figures they exit by blending with the crowd. Parker disagrees. This is a concert for a foreign dignitary, with Secret Service protection. They can't blow a hole in the floor without being detected. Hardison can't do his part, either. Nate has the idea of timing the heist with the music. They'd need their own conductor to get the tempo right.

Concert hall. Empty but for Hardison, who is making unfortunate sounds with a violin. Parker comes in wearing maintenance coveralls; she's establishing her cover and doing a walk-through. She has stopped in to give him a pep talk, wherein she lays out how everything depends on Hardison being able to play. She's trying to give him some adrenaline action; that's what she uses. Hardison is worried that adrenaline will cause him to break the fragile violin. So she gives him a reassuring arm punch and leaves.

The concert hall fills with musicians and audience members. Moto introduces the president to Ms. Connolly. He's looking forward to some positive press. Nate is setting up in a secluded space backstage when he gets a phone call from the Italian woman. He needs to meet her in the prop room pronto. The concert begins. Hardison fakes playing the orchestral portion. The Italian woman wants Nate to remove an envelope from Moto's safe and leave another behind. It's a link to Damien Moreau.

The orchestra plays; Hardison fakes it. Parker and Eliot collect their gear in a janitor's cart. Nate gets them ready to move, based on the conductor's tempo; he's following the sheet music backstage. And -- go! Sophie heads up some stairs with a bag; she's wearing latex gloves. A janitor, with his head down, rolls a mop past the guard station. Moto's flunky looks at him and heads around the corner where he came from. Parker starts trying codes. The flunky sees Eliot standing guard. The two of them get ready to duke it out. The flunky runs and body-blocks Eliot in the wall. He spots Parker and tosses her away from the door. Eliot gets up and engages. Parker recovers and tries more combinations. She gets through as Eliot drops the flunky. Nate has to jump the schedule. Parker lays out det cord while Eliot deals with the revived flunky. Parker finishes and Eliot kicks the flunky into the circle of det cord. Nate gives the signal and Parker blows the floor on the crash of the cymbals. The flunky falls down into the vault. Nate grabs his envelope and runs for the vault. Parker removes the diamonds from the locker. Nate drops into the vault and gets her to open the locker with the envelope.

Hardison's moment of truth has come. He looks up to Sophie in the audience for a reprieve, but she just smiles. He stands and plays a lovely, delicate solo. Down in the vault, the team is transfixed as the solo reaches its apex. The crowd stands and applauds. The motion sensor re-engages -- with Nate, Parker and Eliot down in the vault. Alarms sound.

Parker wonders why Nate's in the vault. He'll explain once they're out. Only a guard pulls the rope up through the hole in the ceiling. Eliot wants to know the plan. Nate is working on it. Sophie have any input? She suggests stalling. Hardison mentions that Moto and the president have left their seats. Nate instructs him to keep his cover. Moto and the president arrive in the vault, trailed by a guard who helps the dusty flunky stand up. Moto diagnoses a robbery; his men will handle it. The flunky heads for Eliot, but Moto meant they should call the police. See? He has it under control, so no need for his brother to be involved. Nate asks the president if he'd like to hear how Moto lured him here to be assassinated. Moto deigns to be entertained. Nate points out how poignant it would be, Moto mourning over his brother's body while Wadata listens on the radio. He claims to be from the CIA, collecting the names of terrorists that Moto supplies for money "at his leisure." The president decides he has ignored the rumors long enough. Moto claims it's a story. The president says then he can open the envelope. Moto is stuck -- he can't open the envelope, it isn't his.

A Secret Service agent enters, followed by Sophie, who joins the others. He tells the president that they found a rifle in the projection room with a print on the scope. Flashback to the flunkies inspecting Sophie's gear at the concert hall, handling a sensitive "lens." Another flashback to Sophie setting up the rifle while wearing latex gloves. The president accuses his brother of being behind the attempt. The Secret Service drag him off as he claims it was "Christy"'s doing. The president nods to Nate and then looks at the flunkies. They leave with him.

Parker wonders how Nate knew what was in the envelope. He was bluffing. Backstage, Nate gives the envelope to the Italian woman. She remarks that it's unopened. Nate deduces that the envelope doesn't connect with Moreau; if it did, she would have handed it over. No, it connects to the Italian woman. That's how she knew it was there. She claims that doing good sometimes involves doing bad things. Nate thinks his bad guys have more honor than she ever will. He warns her not to play him again.

Jane happily tells Nate and Eliot that her article is now published. Nate figures the assassination charges won't stick, but they did result in a search of the vault, which revealed the smuggled diamonds. So Moto's not going to be president. Nate gives her a check. Jane doesn't want money from the diamonds, but it turns out the team wound up with a Stradivarius on their hands. Maybe she could set up a music foundation for the kids. Nate gives Eliot credit for the idea and leaves them.

Parker, Hardison and Sophie are at the bar. Parker guesses Hardison had a recording hidden in the violin. Hardison protests that's not how you treat a Stradivarius. Parker still can't believe his violin skillz, and neither can Hardison. Nate joins them, saying "That's because I hypnotized you." He regressed Hardison to his violin-playing years. Flashback to Nate speaking to a slumped Hardison as the metronome ticks; he asks what piece Hardison played last and hears "Scheherazade." Flashback to Nate asking Hardison if he was napping. Flashback to Nate telling Sophie she identified Hardison as the best candidate. Sophie confesses that she can pick out a candidate for hypnosis. Hardison tells Nate that hypnosis is something you do to a mark, not your crew. Nate says you do whatever you need to in order to get the best performance out of your team. That willingness is the quality Hardison lacks to do Nate's job. Hardison leaves. Parker follows.

Comments: The New England Conservatory of Music is real and justly famous.

There's a moment after the rope is pulled up where Parker is at an open locker. This could be when she restores the diamonds, to be found by the police search of the vault. Or the team put them back after the president left them in possession of the vault.

I'm not sure who the first janitor was -- the one who walked past the guard post with his hat pulled down. He was going the wrong way to be Eliot.


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