Saturday, August 28, 2010


The Rashomon Job

Bar. Night. The bartender and a waitress are closing up, but Sophie, Eliot, Hardison and Parker are having a noisy argument. Parker stomps off and returns with Nate. He tells the bartender they'll close up, and gets the keys. So, what's the deal? Aren't they working on finding Moreau tonight? Sophie says something more important has come up. Nate reminds them that without Moreau, he's going back to jail forever. The team isn't impressed; he did just fine in jail last time. "Learned how to hypnotize people," Hardison reminds him. (He sure does carry a grudge.) This is the dagger of Aqu'Abi.

Sophie flicks on the TV, which is paused to display a gold, jewel-encrusted dagger in a museum case. She and Hardison provide a little background on the dagger and Sophie presses play. There's a news report (hey, it's the reporter from The Inside Job -- this is a little fluffy for someone with her track record, no?) about the dagger, on display in Boston five years after it was stolen from this same museum. (I keep wondering if the crew is ever going to mention the infamous Gardener Museum theft. Maybe safer not to go there.) Sophie, Eliot and Hardison all claim to be the one who stole it. They didn't realize they were all there until Sophie started bragging about one of her best cons ever. Eliot knows she's lying, but Hardison takes it as a given; that's what grifters do. Parker wonders if they're saying Sophie is lying about lying. (Those truth/lie logic puzzles always drive me bonkers.) Sophie proposes that Nate be the referee.

The Grifter's Tale: Sophie ran a long con for the entire four months of the exhibit with two (two!) identities. She was a duchess who donated items to the exhibit. On the last day of the exhibit, we see Duchess Sophie heading into the exhibit. Observer Nate asks Sophie where the art came from. Naturally, it's from her collection of stolen items. (Hmm, wouldn't that be a bit risky?) She makes a big entrance as some old guy announces her to the crowd, and then thanks her for her donations. He's Edgar Gladstone, financier and owner of the dagger. Has a crush on her. But then Coswell, the museum's head of security, shows up to talk to Gladstone. Sophie's trying to stay under his radar. She shoos Observer Nate out of the picture. Gladstone excuses himself from the duchess to talk to Coswell; he's lost three art items this year and wants to make sure everything is in order tonight.

This leaves Sophie free to carry out some business of her own. She snags a flute of champagne from a passing waiter, doses it with some kind of liquid, then hands it to a waitress with instructions to deliver it to Minister Bioko with her compliments. He's over by the refreshment table. Nate has heard of Bioko, from the Zimbabwean art ministry. Reputed blood diamond dealer and, most importantly for Sophie, allergic to shrimp.

Sophie starts heading toward the minister but collides with a man. He apologizes and introduces himself as Dr. Wes Abernathy (hmm, wasn't that the doctor from The Jailhouse Job? And isn't his accent rather twangy for a Bostonian?), a surgeon and fundraiser for the museum. He flirts with Sophie, who is inclined to flirt back. The lights dim briefly, and Minister Bioko starts choking. Sophie rushes over and picks up an hors d'oeuvre. Hey, there are shrimp in these; is he allergic? The minister gasps an agreement. Abernathy and Gladstone have both followed Sophie. She lifts a card from Gladstone's pocket as he watches Abernathy treat the minister. The doctor calls for a knife and one of the waitstaff hands him something. Sophie slips away and uses Gladstone's card to unlock a door. Meanwhile, Abernathy reassures his patient, "Death will not claim you tonight!" Sophie makes her escape as Abernathy urges Bioko to live. (Sophie on the con? Great actress. Sophie re-enacting the doctor? Bad actress.)

Sophie makes her way to a storage closet and retrieves a black bag. She explains to Observer Nate that Gladstone had around-the-clock access to the storage areas, which her other identity didn't. Nate unzips her and she shoos him away again. She emerges from the closet in a lab coat and attaches a staff badge. She makes her way to a large room and identifies herself to a security guard as Dr. Karen Ipcress from the restoration department. Is that still necessary after four months of bringing him coffee and donuts? She's really playing the nerd. The security guard wonders why she's working at night; she says she's helping with the close of the exhibit. They have to process all the items for return to their owners.

Coswell arrives and she jumps to attention. She wasn't expecting him so early. Well, the gallery is closed due to a medical emergency, so time to get cracking on that processing. He wants to talk to Dr. Ipcress. He mentions that he saw his "first duchess" upstairs and she -- looks -- "I'll be right back." He leaves. Sophie replaces the address and bar-coded shipping information for the dagger. (Duchess Barrington Highsworth lives on "Warren Road" in "Ellis County.") She leaves the room but almost runs into Coswell, coming back down the stairs with a shotgun. She hides around the corner as Coswell interrogates a guard. "We are not letting her slip through our fingers!" He leaves the room and runs into another guard, who hasn't seen Dr. Ipcress. Sophie scurries off.

Bar. Sophie awaits applause for her brilliant plan. Nate observes that she didn't steal the dagger, but Sophie says the museum stole the dagger for her. The dagger was scanned and packed in one of the crates with Sophie's items. It was shipped to London under guard from the museum. Perfect plan. Except -- Sophie opens her crate and flings about packing straw -- the dagger wasn't in the shipment. Eliot offers a mock gasp of surprise. Sophie insists that she get credit for stealing the dagger, even if she didn't keep it.

Eliot can explain. He pulls back his hair, holds a couple of shot glasses in front of his eyes and says, "Pardon me, ma'am. Did I get that on your dress?" Sophie refuses to believe it. We see her running into Dr. Abernathy again, only this time, it's Eliot. Nate observes that the dagger doesn't seem to be something he'd go for, but Eliot was doing a favor.

The Hitter's Tale: Storage room with boxes. Eliot (for some reason, he has a number 7 on the back of his shirt) is fighting with two guys. One is down and one is injured when the injured man's phone rings. Eliot answers and recognizes the caller as Guttman. He figured Eliot would be the one answering. Eliot wonders why Guttman's sending "second-rate thugs" to kill him. He looks at injured guy and says, "If I'm not honest with you, you can't improve." (Eliot Spencer, career counselor.) Guttman was disappointed not to receive the Sapphire Monkey. Eliot was disappointed to discover it was in North Korea. (I'm thinking this was the monkey that got Eliot thrown in a dungeon somewhere, as we saw in The Two-Horse Job.) So Guttman will let Eliot make him up to him. A client he moves "rare merchandise" for has requested a dagger, currently on display in Boston. If Eliot says no, Guttman will go back to hoping one of his thugs gets lucky. Eliot punches out the injured guy.

In the museum parking lot, Eliot jumps into the back seat of the real Dr. Abernathy, and demands his clothes and invitation. Cooperation will get him stuffed into the roomy trunk of his car. Failure to cooperate will make the madman in his back seat unhappy. Dr. Abernathy goes for cooperation.

Eliot and Observer Nate study the dagger in the exhibit hall. Nate asks what his angle is. Eliot will go for the dagger when it's shipped out once the exhibit ends. He needs to get downstairs. Eliot takes a flute of champagne from a waitress and runs into Sophie, who's now sporting a Cockney accent. She comes onto him.

Bar. Sophie interrupts. What is that? Eliot says it's her accent. Really? Well then, Sophie needs to amend her story. Now she runs into a beer-drinking Dr. Abernathy, who is considerably more colloquial in his speech and pulls out a corncob pipe. Eliot calls a halt. She had her turn already, now he gets to talk.

Back to Eliot's version. The "duchess" is quite a party girl. They both notice the lights dimming, and then the minister starts choking. Sophie, Eliot and Gladstone all rush over and Sophie grabs an hors d'oeuvre. "Cor blimey, guvnor, that there's loaded with sea roaches! That's British for shrimp. We have a different word for a lot of things. It's a bit stupid, innit?" The minister gasps out that he's allergic to shrimp and Sophie shoves Eliot forward, claiming he's a doctor. He asks a waitress for a corkscrew, with the blade out, and urges his patient to be calm. He tries to ask the duchess for something, but she's gone. The minister offers a small tin of pills and Eliot gives him one. He asks Gladstone if there's an office where he can take the patient and Gladstone offers the first-aid station. He leads Eliot and the minister to the door but can't find his card. Fortunately, Coswell opens the door from the other side. Gladstone suggests to Coswell that they close the exhibit as Eliot carries his patient through the door.

Eliot has the minister reclining on a exam bed. "You're a life saver," avows the minister and shakes his hand. "I'm in your debt. I am in your debt." Eliot shakes off his persistence and heads downstairs. He hears Coswell talking to Dr. Ipcress in the item processing room. Eliot hides around a corner until he leaves. A security guard comes down the hallway; Eliot tackles him and drags him into the closet. Coswell comes back downstairs with a long, black box and interrogates the processing room guard about Dr. Ipcress as Eliot -- now dressed as a security guard -- emerges from the closet. Coswell buttonholes him about Dr. Ipcress, too. Eliot runs off, purportedly to look for her. Now he's in the shipping room, wearing coveralls that say "Herb" and loading a crate for London on his truck. (Talk about clothes making the man -- that's three outfits so far tonight. Four if you count his own clothes.) In the van, Eliot pops open the crate and pulls out the case which holds the dagger.

Bar. Sophie is grumpy. Eliot's "smash-and-grab" ruined her perfect plan. "Whatever it takes to get the job done, babe," he gloats. Only Hardison points out that he didn't get the job done. Back in the van, Eliot opens the dagger's case to find a coffee mug that says "World's Greatest Grandpa." Parker wonders what happened with the guy Eliot owed. Turns out he had a lot of enemies and got picked up on a racketeering charge a few weeks later. Sophie wants to know what happened with the dagger and Hardison chuckles knowingly.

Parker runs a shell game with three cups and a balled-up bill. Sophie has the dagger first, but then Eliot has it -- or does he? She lifts his cup and the bill is missing. She lifts the next cup -- Sophie never had it. She slides the third cup around -- What about Hardison? She lifts the cup and there's no bill. Nate is skeptical; art theft isn't Hardison's thing. Normally, no. But the museum had just installed a Tanuki security system and Hardison wanted bragging rights. But he needed a trophy for proof.

The Hacker's Tale: Hardison strolls into the museum wearing a tux. He explains to Observer Nate that he hacked the museum's mail and snagged the invitation of "some random dignitary" -- one Minister Robert Bioko. Inside, he uses his phone to trigger an attack on the firewall by his home computer. Hardison flirts with an ever-growing crowed of ladies. Later, by the refreshment table, he spots the duchess dirty-dancing with Abernathy and snaps a picture with his phone. The lights dim and return. Hardison tells Observer Nate the power surge indicates the Tanuki resetting. Now his backdoor is set. Nate reminds him he still needs access. Hardison starts to collapse. Gladstone comes over and asks the "minister" if he's okay. The "minister" asks for a "first-aid room or back office" to lie down in. Sophie comes over, grabs an hors d'oeuvre and says -- in a Scottish accent -- "Och, there's shrimp in this!"

Bar. Sophie protests. What is it with Americans and accents? She apologizes for interrupting. "I sound like one of the dwarves in The Lord of the Rings, but please, continue."

So, Sophie says -- in a Scottish accent -- "Och, there's shrimp in this!" Then she practically yells at the minister, "You're allergic to shrimp." Hardison echoes the clue. Then Eliot grabs him and requests a knife from the waitstaff; someone hands over a big carving knife. "I'm gonna have to cut you, man," he informs his patient. Hardison takes a pill from a little tin and announces he can breathe now. Eliot wants to take him someplace quiet, with no witnesses.

Bar. Eliot realizes Hardison didn't take a pill. Nope, it was a breath mint. He was about to get his throat cut open, so he had to think of something. "That explains it," says Eliot.

In the first-aid station, Eliot has Hardison on the exam table. "Do you smell peppermint? I smell peppermint." Yes, he's sure. He flourishes the very large carving knife. "It's a pretty distinctive smell. I'm gonna go sharpen this knife. Maybe walk around the halls. In the dark. Don't leave." Hardison gives the crazy man a thumbs up. Once Eliot's gone, Hardison hops onto the office PC and hacks the shipping database. Observer Nate thinks he's going to change the shipping address, just like Sophie, but Hardison wants to keep the dagger in the museum. In the processing room, a guard scans the dagger and places it in a locker. Hardison will pick it up once they finish the inventory.

Sometime later, Hardison has acquired a security guard uniform. He approaches the secure storage room and has his phone start hacking the card scanner. Coswell spots him and asks what he's doing. Hardison claims to be patrolling. Coswell asks if he's seen Dr. Ipcress. Naturally, he hasn't. Coswell tells him that he lives for his job, and they're going to fix "this screw-up." Hardison is on board when the door to the secure storage room pops open. Fortunately, a guard stumbles out of a storage closet in his skivvies just at that moment. Coswell heads over to help him. Hardison takes the opportunity to lift his keys and shove Coswell and the guard into the closet, and lock it. Then he's in the secure storage room, finds the locker and unlocks it with Coswell's keys.

Bar. "I beat you. And I beat you, too. And nothing else matters," he gloats. Nate notices the phrasing. What was it that doesn't matter? That would be the storage locker being empty. Sophie and Eliot claim the last laugh, but Hardison insists that he still beat them. And they were nasty together, he remembers. Eliot says somebody got the dagger out of the museum. Nate reviews with Parker's shell game cups. None of them had the dagger. He then taps Parker's hand, which she opens to reveal the balled-up bill. She smiles at Nate. "Yeah." Everyone looks at her. "What? I'm a thief!"

The Thief's Tale: Parker, in her usual waitress mode, is walking Observer Nate through the gallery. Her gear is under the refreshment table, next to a ventilation shaft. (I've had a ten-pound cat in my ventilation shaft -- don't ask -- and let's just say anyone who plans a heist based on sneaking through the ventilation system is not going to be happy with the outcome.) She'll wait for a distraction, make her way downstairs and wait for an opportunity to present itself. She unloads a couple of flutes at the refreshment table. Hardison comes up and asks if the food is free. She walks off without answering. Hardison starts stuffing shrimp puffs in his pockets. Sophie accosts Parker, hands her a flute of champagne and says something almost entirely unintelligible. Parker grimaces in confusion.

Bar. Sophie seethes, "I hate you all."

Parker hands off the drink with a "Here ya go, free booze." She's looking at one of the exhibits when Coswell calls her over. Shouldn't she have drinks on her tray? And where's her name tag? Over on the table. Where's she's going now. The lights dim temporarily and she diagnoses the problem: "Someone just punched a hole in the security system."

Over at the refreshment table, Hardison collapses. Sophie sniffs an hors d'oeuvre and says something entirely unintelligible. "Yes, I'm allergic to shrimp," Hardison agrees. "Oh, you said shrimp," Parker realizes. Sophie tosses the offending shrimp puff over her shoulder and stalks off. Parker announces, "I think his throat's closing up! You're going to have to open his airway!" She hands the giant carving knife to Eliot while Hardison fends him off. All of a sudden, he can breathe again. Miracle! Parker dives under the refreshment table. She emerges in the storage closet, dropping her black bag of gear next to the other black bag on the floor (careless of her) but the door won't open. So Parker pulls out a diagram and works out Plan B. She grabs the other black bag of gear as she heads back into the ventilation shaft.

Plan B lands her under a table in the processing room, where Coswell is asking after Dr. Ipcress. He leaves, picking up and racking a shotgun, which knocks a coffee mug off the table. Parker catches it before it can break (so she won't be discovered by someone sweeping up the mess). The guard scans the dagger and places it in a locker. Parker looks up to see which locker and slips the coffee cup into the dagger's case. It gets packed and shipped.

Everyone leaves the processing room. Parker emerges from the table, picks the lock on the storage locker, retrieves the dagger and does a cute little dance of celebration. She exits as Hardison is stuffing Coswell into the closet.

Ventilation shaft. Parker finds the central up/down shaft. She opens up her black bag of gear for climbing equipment and finds Duchess Sophie's raspberry satin dress instead. Not nearly so useful for getting up to the roof. Looks like she'll have to do this without the rope. On the way up, she runs into Coswell crawling along another shaft. She punches him and he grabs at her. She falls and catches herself, but the dagger slips out of her waistband and falls down the shaft.

Bar. Parker is disgusted, but there it is. Sophie says she told them Coswell was smart. Maybe even smarter than Nate. Hardison still doesn't get it. Someone got out of the museum with the dagger that night. Sophie says one of them must have lied. Eliot and Hardison assume she did, that being what grifters do. And we're back to the squabbling that started us off. Only Parker notices Nate sitting quietly and realizes he has something to add. They've forgotten to ask one important question: who insured the dagger? That's right. He's just put some pieces together, but now he can tell them all what really happened.

The Mastermind's Tale: Duchess Sophie climbs the stairs to the exhibit. Behind her is Nate, talking to Coswell. Gladstone's had three items stolen in the last year and they're not going to pay out on the dagger if it gets stolen. Coswell offers to introduce him to Gladstone but Nate heads for the security office. This version of Coswell is not nearly so intimidating.

Sophie grabs a flute and doctors it, then accosts Parker to deliver it. Coswell tells Gladstone how pretty the duchess is, but Gladstone wants to talk business. Eliot grabs the champagne from Parker, sips it and spits it out (it tastes funny), nearly running into Sophie. He introduces himself as Dr. Abernathy. Meanwhile, Coswell summons Parker and nervously asks for a drink, even though he's on duty, but it's a special day and he needs some courage, so could she fetch him a drink, Miss -- uh, name tag? Parker heads for the refreshment table.

Everyone is gathered around Hardison, agreeing on the "allergic to shrimp" story. Eliot observes that he'll die if his throat closes and Parker offers him the carving knife. "I'm gonna have to cut ya," Eliot says. And we've got Dr. Ipcress in the storage closet, zipping up her black bag of other disguise, and then she's in the processing room when Coswell walks in. He's pleased to see her, but then she's always so diligent. Perhaps they could talk. He babbles -- there's a whole bunch of fancy people upstairs, including a duchess, and Dr. Ipcress is prettier. That doesn't seem to make an impression on her, so he runs out kicking himself and Sophie starts switching the address labels. Eliot tackles his guard. Parker can't open the storage closet door because Eliot is backed up against it, wrestling with the guard. So she grabs the wrong bag and heads bag into the ventilation shaft. "Dr. Ipcress" skedaddles.

Back up at the refreshment table, Nate asks Coswell if maybe food poisoning isn't an odd coincidence for the last night of the exhibit. Coswell says he'll check it out, then asks if Nate is married. Yes, he is. Coswell hands over a long black box and thinks they shouldn't go to waste. Nate finds a bunch of red roses inside.

Downstairs, Coswell finds Hardison unlocking the secure storage room (and utterly fails to recognize the victim of the medical emergency which closed the exhibit). Coswell asks him about Dr. Ipcress. He sadly says, "I screwed up. I let her get away." Then the door opens and the guard emerges from the closet and Hardison stuffs them in the closet. Coswell asks the guard if that black bag belongs to him (he grunts a denial -- no union card for this actor) and opens it up to find a big coil of black rope. Coswell is impressed with how well the custodians stock the supply closets. He crawls into the ventilation shaft to affect a rescue of the guard. Nate strolls the lower level of the museum and radios Coswell; a bunch of doors are unsecured. Coswell runs into Parker. Punch, grab, slip, dagger falls down the shaft. Nate hears the clattering and heads to investigate. The dagger falls out of the shaft, right into his hands.

Bar. The team is inclined to disbelieve. After all, the dagger was stolen. Nate agrees.

Upstairs. A disheveled Coswell has managed to escape the ventilation shafts. Gladstone announces that he's just informed the police that the dagger was stolen. Coswell apologizes for letting the thief escape. Gladstone complains about his loss as Nate waves the dagger around. Finally, he snaps it. Coswell wouldn't expect gold to break like that. Nate questions Gladstone's sense of loss. He's been selling the artifacts on the black market, then staging thefts of substitute fakes so he can claim the insurance. Double-dipping. Tsk. Gladstone will do anything not to be ruined. Well, he'll have to repay the previous settlements and IYS will take the dagger (which he hasn't sold yet) and the dealer. That's the guy Nate really wants to catch. Coswell observes that the dealer will run when he hears the dagger wasn't stolen. All right, the story of the theft will stand.

So nobody got the dagger. Sophie wonders if the ruse worked and Nate got the dealer. Flashback to Eliot's friend Guttman, explaining that a client for whom he moves "rare merchandise" wants the dagger retrieved. Nate was the one who had him arrested.

Hardison is disgusted that they all put in so much effort to no avail. Nate reminds them that it's easy to forget why they became a team. He resumes the paused news report. The dagger is now owned by the CEO of the oil company responsible for the big oil spill. The reporter asks him if it isn't tacky to be flaunting the company's profits while so many people are worried about losing their jobs as a result of the spill. The CEO believes that sharing art with "the little people" shows how much he and the company care.

Parker calls dibs. No, Sophie wants it. Hardison says, "Not if I get there first." They run off. Eliot looks at Nate, then nods and heads out to back them up. Nate watches them leave, then decides to join in. He turns out the lights and locks up.

Comments: Remember at the end of The Incredibles, after the big fight, there's this little boy on his trike in the driveway, and he goes absolutely bananas trying to convey just how awesome it was to witness that fight? I understand how he felt.

The best bits are the details and the way everything lines up. There are multiple layers of perception at play. First, there's the storyteller's perception of what happened, which is naturally influenced by the teller's perception of self. Then there's the information each teller has from previous stories, and both the conscious and unconscious reactions to that knowledge.

As for the "true" story: I'm inclined to believe that Eliot was handed a corkscrew rather than a carving knife, the one being more likely found at a museum refreshment table than the other. Also, Coswell couldn't have been quite as bumbling as Nate painted him -- the bit about how thoroughly the janitors stocked the supply closets? Nate wasn't there. But I believe he had a crush on Dr. Ipcress. And why didn't Sophie notice and exploit that crush? First, she was on her guard against Coswell. Second, I don't think she believes that Dr. Ipcress is attractive, with her messy hair and nasal voice. Sad but true.


Thursday, August 19, 2010


The Underground Job

West Virginia. Coal mine. The A shift comes out and the B shift heads in. Two guys (one in either direction) pause to chat about the 14th birthday party for B guy's son Cory. The boss drives up and nags them for chatting, so they move along. There's a rumble and a fireball shoots out of the mineshaft. The A shift runs to look for survivors. The boss tells his henchman, "Call my lawyer." So, yeah, he would be our villain this week.

Bar. Two years later, A Shift Guy is telling Nate and Eliot about the explosion. Twelve men died. Everyone knew the mine didn't have good ventilation but they couldn't do anything about it. Nate raises the possibility of another line of work, but Eliot says mining is the only work available. The miners just want some safety. Dan Blackwell, the owner, got a government check for safety improvements but it didn't go into the mines. Nate decides to find the money and redirect it to its proper purpose.

HQ. Hardison runs the briefing. Blackwell invested the money in the state's attorney general, one Debra Pierce, thanks to a Supreme Court decision lifting limits on corporate donations to political action committees. (When you declare corporations are people so you can hit them up for income tax, you endow them with the right to free speech.) Blackwell has gotten some 400 safety citations over the last couple of years, but he appealed them and Pierce put them all into legal limbo so he doesn't have to pay. Pierce will keep them from taking out Blackwell, so they'll have to get them both. Get them to move some PAC money around and they both go down. Nate and Sophie decide on the Skyway Shuffle. Hardison thinks they're making stuff up, but Sophie claims it's like the Fiddle Game. Parker likes that one. But she doesn't get to be the fiddle this time -- the mine will be the fiddle. They'll sell Blackwell a process to extract something of value from it.

Mine. The client brings "Eric" (at least Eliot's initial hasn't changed) down and calls Cory over to show him to Section C, which is quiet and unpopulated. He'll be doing "dust readings."

Mine office (trailer). Hardison and Sophie claim to be inspectors from the Mine Safety Coalition, here for a spot check. Blackwell has his henchman take them into the mine. Immediately after they leave, "Bob Gibson" (minus his horse-trading cowboy hat) enters and offers to buy Blackwell's mine. He's not interested in selling. Gibson tosses him a business card in case he changes his mind.

State capitol. (I believe it's Wheeling, but don't make me look it up.) Parker's up. She's wondering if maybe someone else couldn't handle this job. Nate tells her to relax and remember Sophie's advice. Flashback to Sophie explaining the principles of grifting to Parker. It's like romance. Unfortunately, Parker doesn't woo. So Sophie tries comparing it to something Parker does understand: casing a bank. Analyze the mark like a security system. Sophie gives Parker a notebook and some advice. She knows Parker will be fine.

Back at the capitol, Parker takes a moment to review her notes before Nate nags her into getting a move on. She heads into Pierce's office, where the AG is rehearsing an election speech. "Callie Beth Loughlin" flatters her way into a position as campaign consultant. It helps that "Callie Beth" is from a wealthy family and doesn't need a salary.

Mine. Cory, clearing resenting his gofer status, asks "Eric" how he got stuck with busywork. Eric says he's the new guy and Cory confesses to being the young guy. He's eighteen. (Feel free to disbelieve. Or do math. Or both.) Eric figures he's too young for the wife-and-kid thing, but Cory is supporting his mother and sister after his father's death in the explosion two years ago. Eric apologizes. Cory meanders off and Eric pulls out a small electronic device. Flashback to Hardison explaining the barriers to communication down in the mine; Eliot needs to plant little booster devices in the mine's intercom system. The technical briefing gets cut short when Eliot impatiently grabs the box of devices and figures out for himself that they're fragile. Hardison is disappointed in Eliot's attitude. Back in the mine, Eliot plants the device.

Elsewhere undergound, Sophie and Hardison are looking around when Eliot tells them (over the now-functioning comms) that Section C is prepped. Hardison asks the henchman to lead the way to Section C. Hardison uses something like a radar gun to check the walls. The henchman doesn't think it's a dust-reading kit; Hardison condescends to him and shows the reading to Sophie.

AG's office. "Callie Beth" has set up Facebook and Twitter accounts for the campaign, created a PAC for donations and raised $436 already. Pierce is impressed with her work habits. Flashback to Parker searching and bugging Pierce's office, and connecting to some ready-made pages. Pierce hands her coffee mug to Callie Beth, who makes a face behind her back. I don't think Parker is cut out for office work, really.

Mine office. Blackwell asks his henchman about fines, but there are no new ones today. The inspectors took some funny readings and looked pretty happy. Blackwell wonders about the timing of the inspectors and Gibson. The henchman recommended they go to Carver's for lunch.

Carver Cafe. Sophie enters and "Bob Gibson" asks if "they" bought the safety inspector bit. And look, there's Blackwell lurking in a booth, hearing everything. Gibson leaves and Blackwell approaches Sophie, who pretends to be disconcerted. She confesses to being Eloise Timson, an expert in mineral extraction. She has a lucrative business deal with Gibson, who owns a bunch of land adjacent to Blackwell's mine. Except that was mined out years ago. "Eloise" shows a report -- they're not after coal, but coltan, a mineral used in cell phones. It's mined in central Africa, which is a political and economic mess, so a domestic source would make American companies very happy. Using the process from Eloise's company, Gibson can extract the coltan that's in Blackwell's mine.

Blackwell plays defense and calls Pierce to bury Gibson's mineral rights application (helpfully planted by Parker), at least long enough to stall. Then he calls Eloise to tell her Gibson's out and offers to buy the process from her instead. But he'll need a demonstration tomorrow morning.

Morning. Hardison and Sophie wander into Section C with Blackwell in tow. Hardison "finds" a coltan deposit with a "sonar" gun. Blackwell scrapes the surface of the wall into a tube with liquid and shakes. Well, looks like coltan. Flashback to Cory and "Eric" tossing dust onto the mine walls. Cory gripes about the busywork, but Eric says it's real work, keeping the coal dust out of their lungs. Cory observes that the dust looks different. Over the comm, Hardison protests that he is not, in fact, capable of altering chemical properties, so limestone laced with coltan is gonna look different. Eric opines that the "lab geeks" must have come up with something new.

Hardison assays a few more areas and promises riches. Blackwell looks forward to it -- used to be mining was lucrative, but now with miners complaining about pay and safety, it's hard to make money. Nate checks Blackwell's assets and "Eloise" demands $600,000. Lump sum, no installments. By tomorrow, which is when Gibson is prepared to give them a check. Blackwell tells them to stop by a political fundraiser tomorrow to get the money. Nate tells Eliot to clear out but he wants to finish his shift. He heads over to chat with Cory. They overhear two guys talking about the scoop. Eliot tells Cory that he ought to aim for working with the machinery -- faster, safer, better money, better life for his family.

State capitol. "Callie Beth" shows Pierce her new, improved numbers. She's never seen such an improvement. "Really?" wonders Callie Beth. Hardison protests that he didn't know how high to go, just to make them high so Pierce would feel safe giving up the PAC money. Blackwell is waiting in Pierce's office, so Pierce sends Callie Beth off for a coffee refill. She balks at using the PAC money for the process; she needs to stay in office for Blackwell's mine to be of any use to him. Why not use the mine's money? Blackwell supposes he can use the payroll and bankrupt the mine. Pierce doesn't see a downside. Blackwell calls his henchman to send everyone home. Nate realizes he's going to blow up the mine. Oops. That wasn't the plan. So how do they recover? They'll convince Blackwell that Eloise is a thief.

Mine. Hardison, Eliot and Nate all stand next to the van. Nate will lure Blackwell down to the mine; he won't blow it up if he's in it. Eliot hands Hardison the device case and says he'll look for the bomb. Hardison will help. From a safe distance. But he gives Eliot a chest bump for morale. "Bob Gibson" calls Blackwell and tells him that they've been conned. He can prove it if Blackwell meets him at the mine. He hangs up. Blackwell calls his henchman and leaves a message not to plant the bomb just yet.

At the fundraiser, Sophie tells Parker that their job is to spook Pierce into moving the PAC money. What does Parker have on her? Parker goes through her notes. There's the sugar in the coffee, the mixed blue and black pens -- nice attention to detail. But Sophie is looking for something that a normal person might find weird. Parker reviews her notes again. There was a closed door meeting with Blackwell one afternoon, sounded like they were working out. Sophie asks Hardison for the audio from Pierce's office for that afternoon. Hardison plays it back. It takes him a second to realize what he's hearing and then the mere thought of geezer sex squicks him out. So, anyway, this would be something that Sophie can use.

Down in the mine, Eliot swaps out an oxygen meter. Hardison has hacked into the mine's monitor system to track heat and methane levels, but it's too old and clunky to be of much help. Eliot will keep searching, after making a chalk X on some supports.

"Eloise" approaches Pierce to thank her for kicking in her money. Or the PAC's money, whichever. "Danny" mentioned it last night, or possibly this morning. Pierce doesn't remember this being the plan. "Eloise" moves on. Pierce uses her phone to check the account and finds a transfer pending.

Mine. "Gibson" and Blackwell head into Section C, which Eliot declares clear. Gibson scrapes coltan off the surface of the wall, but then goes a little deeper and finds none. Blackwell realizes the mine was salted with coltan. Hardison finds something with his scan and tells Eliot, who spots Cory's lunchbox hanging on the wall. Hardison prompts him to get the bomb. Gibson gloats that Blackwell would have been scammed, but Blackwell just wants to get out. Unfortunately, there's a rumble and a collapse.

Nate rouses but his comm is offline. Hardison tells Eliot that he lost Nate. Sophie overhears and summons Parker. Pierce works her phone and tells "Callie Beth" to get new office keys.

Eliot finds Cory, who took the time to work on the machinery since everyone was gone. Eliot commends his opportunism, except for the being alone part, and hustles him out. Blackwell and "Gibson" snipe at each other. Pierce accosts Sophie and pretends to be upset that she's leaving. Sophie explains that the mine had an accident and Blackwell is trapped. Pierce isn't going to let them steal her money. She cancels the transfer and tells Sophie that the police are on their way to arrest her. "Callie Beth" comes up with a phone call for Pierce. She turns to shoo her off and when she turns back, Sophie is gone. Pierce calls her police sergeant and directs him to the mine.

Mine. Eliot and Cory encounter a pick-wielding henchman in the tunnels. Eliot collects a pick of his own and sends Cory away. Blackwell checks the oxygen meter; they only have about two hours. Eliot and the henchman duke it out. "Gibson" fiddles with an intercom and wonders if they can call for help. Blackwell says it doesn't work. "Gibson" asks about all the improvements he read about, and Blackwell confesses that he faked the paperwork. All the money went to the AG. Blackwell clobbers Gibson and he goes down.

Eliot finishes off the henchman and then "finds" Blackwell, who squeezes through the opening. He emerges to an arrest by the state troopers. Blackwell protests that he's the victim; Gibson planted the bomb and tried to steal his mine. The troopers pull a device from Blackwell's pocket -- it's the bomb. Flashback to Eliot finding and disarming the bomb (with a fake "boom!" for Hardison). Flashback to him planting the bomb on Blackwell as he squeezed past.

Blackwell wonders what caused the explosion. Flashback to Hardison with a box full of gadgets, including microdetonators and modified oxygen meters. He knew it was a mine, so he spent the weekend kitting up. Nate prepares to lure Blackwell to the mine. Flashback to Hardison telling Nate to stay to the right of X so the controlled blast won't get him. Blackwell gets loaded into the back of a police car with Pierce. The police heard everything. Flashback to Nate's comm coming back when he fiddles with the intercom; Hardison says he's tied Nate's comm to the intercoms. Flashback to Pierce and the state police hearing Blackwell's confession that he faked the paperwork on the improvements and paid off Pierce. Blackwell hopes she can get them out of this mess, but she's not inclined to save a cheater. As the police car pulls out, Pierce spots Parker. Flashback to Parker reminding her about the PAC she set up, so Pierce transfers her old PAC money into her new PAC.

Hardison congratulates Parker and she celebrates her success as a grifter. Nate reminds her that she doesn't get to keep the money. She stalks off to the van and Hardison follows. Parker pulls a pillow and blanket from a compartment and settles for a nap; stealing souls is hard work. Hardison reviews her notes and wonders if she's going to keep tabs on the team now. She drowsily wonders if he knows he touches his chin every 2.5 minutes.

Cory confronts Eliot to find out who they really are. Eliot admits they're friends of Troy (the client) who came to make the mine safer. So now they'll be leaving. But Cory has a bunch of good guys to look after him. They say goodbye. Troy arrives at the trailer and Nate tells him it's his office. The board made him the new mine supervisor. The federal safety money ought to help. Eliot asks him to look after Cory. Maybe put him on the scoop.

The B shift heads down into the mine.

Comments: Callie Beth is actually not a bad character assignment for Parker. Her intense drive makes her odd, but in a "normal" way. And it's always nice to see Sophie mentoring Parker. Over the past episodes, the rest of the team has looked stunned or perplexed when Parker chipped in at the briefings, but Sophie has looked proud of her.

Interesting that Hardison was much more toned down in his character this outing, but he was really more of a utility player this time out. It would be interesting to see Sophie (try to) coach Hardison sometime.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010


The Three Card Monte Job

Boston. Junkyard-type of locale -- industrial and unpopulated. A bunch of Russian mobsters shove around a working stiff. An older guy with a flask thinks he's softened up now. The boss Russian tells him to take the phone and do what he's told, or they'll harm his children. Working Stiff promises to play along.

Bar. Working Stiff is explaining his predicament to Nate, Sophie and Hardison, who takes a closer look at the phone. He's supposed to do whatever they say and destroy the phone. Nate confirms that he's in the business of phone lines, but there's nothing that indicates what the Russians want. He can't go to the police because the Russians will know; he thinks they're watching. He has been to the bar before, and Nate isn't police, so this conversation is probably safe. Unless the Russians get an eyeful of Hardison messing with the phone. Working Stiff should answer the phone when the call comes; the team will know when it rings, so they'll be in touch. He leaves. Hardison found an incoming call to the phone -- the Russians were making sure Working Stiff would answer. He calls them back, and triangulates their position. The phone rings in a warehouse somewhere.

Warehouse somewhere. Eliot and Parker sneak up. Eliot wants to make sure that Hardison got the right place, and Hardison makes sure that Eliot knows that he is entirely capable of finding the right place. An alert signals a match on the bad guy who answered the phone. He and his crew had a bunch of cash, drugs and guns confiscated by the police just a month ago, so they need a fresh infusion of cash. And what has Eliot managed to do with his afternoon? (Parker is quietly amused by their byplay.)

Eliot leads and Parker follows as they enter an open bay in a warehouse. A guy with the tattoos of a Russian crime boss runs bills through a money-counting machine. Eliot remembers Russian mob guys who would blackmail people into committing crime or transporting money. The innocents would get arrested and wind up dead. Parker offers to taser the guy, but Nate calls her off. He and Sophie are tailing the Russians as they stroll through the city. Sophie volunteers that she hates criminals like these. Nate reminds her that she was a criminal, too, but she "stole art from rich people who could afford it." Nothing like these guys.

Parker searches the back of the SUV in the warehouse while Eliot keeps watch, except he comes over to prod her to hurry up. She's searched three times and found nothing, so he has her search some more. Russian Guy hears something and comes over. Fighting ensues. Parker tosses a crowbar at Eliot and it clocks him on the head. Russian Guy has a crowbar, too, so it's a fair fight now, but Eliot still snarls at Parker for throwing it at him. She wishes she had just tasered the guy when she had the chance.

Sophie is lobbying for a big, dramatic takedown of these guys when they stop in front of the bar. Nate figures they reversed the phone tap, and Sophie figures they're going to kill Hardison. Someone doesn't like the sound of that. Eliot clocks Russian Guy and he goes down. Hardison realizes that the front door is his only way out (you'd think they would have planned better than that, what with the whole building at their disposal) and needs to know if the Russians are coming in that way. Nate and Sophie head around back to find out. Sophie discovers that someone has been using the back room for planning a job. (You'd think Cora would have said something.) They head toward the front of the house and find the Russians talking to someone at the bar. False alarm, Hardison. Danger past, he realizes how silly it was to assume that anyone reversed one of his phone taps.

Back at the warehouse, Russian Guy surrenders. He still has the phone -- the same phone Working Stiff had -- so what more do they want? Eliot and Parker realize he's another blackmail victim. So he's not the boss. Nate knows -- he's about to meet the boss. He sends Sophie off and walks up to the bar. It's the older guy with the flask. "Hello, Dad."

Jimmy Ford sends the boss Russian away so he can converse with his boy. Nate knows he got out of jail recently, but wasn't on hand to pick him up. What's Jimmy doing with Russian bully boys? Turns out he took the fall for the Irish mob families, but someone else turned state's evidence and now the families are going down. They aren't in a position to take care of someone who did time for them, so he's getting nothing out of it. And here's Nate, who always thought he was smarter and better, who never did anything wrong, only now he's done time. Nate says if he knows that, then he knows Nate owns this town, so no action for him. Jimmy thinks Nate is trying to be him, but he's not ruthless enough. Flashback to Jimmy introducing Nate to three card monte. Nate couldn't figure it out then and he can't figure it out now. Jimmy will be done with the backroom by the weekend.

HQ. Nate prompts Hardison to start the briefing. The team isn't so sure about this, but Nate is. Hardison soft pedals Jimmy's bio, so Nate steps in. Jimmy was a bookie, graduated to loan shark, then became a fixer and a matchmaker for guys needing work and guys needing guys. So how does this tie in with the Russian blackmailers? They have a phone guy, and the guy at the warehouse ships industrial clothing and uniforms. There's a third red phone they haven't tracked down yet. Sophie summarizes that there's not enough intel to set up a con, so maybe they should sit this one out. Specifically, maybe Nate should sit this one out. Nate's looking forward to taking on dear old Dad. Working Stiff gets his call, so Nate heads out. The team tags along. (He's emotional but not (yet) taking insane risks, so they'll play along.)

Downtown Boston. The team climbs out of the van. Hardison and Eliot have police badges around their necks, like undercovers. Working Stiff's mission was to install a black box during one of his maintenance visits to the police precinct. The black box lets Jimmy control which alarms get through to the police and which don't. If the team interferes, the Russians will take it out on Working Stiff's family. So they'll help instead. Sophie breaks out the handcuffs and Parker peels off.

Precinct desk. Eliot and Hardison are detectives from another district bringing in a drunk-and-disorderly, one "Viola D'Agostino" of those D'Agostinos. They want to stash her away from the press. Parker handles some wiring and the desk sergeant's call goes to Nate. They chat and the sergeant sends them downstairs to the drunk tank. Hardison installs a spiffy black box while Eliot uncuffs Sophie. Something about being in cuffs in a police station is making her antsy. Hardison synchronizes the box with the remote that Nate has. The team makes their way back to the van -- only the van is not there and neither is Nate. (Hardison stresses about the fate of "Lucille 2.0".) Eliot realizes what he's doing.

Nate is explaining how he did Jimmy a favor but cutting out Working Stiff -- he was a liability who could have tipped off the police. Instead, Nate has a spiffy system with a remote. Jimmy thanks him for his contribution, but Nate's not giving up the remote. If they try to take it, he'll blow it remotely. This is what happens when they pull a job in his town. The Russian boss is ready to shoot Nate 'cause he's working with the cops. Nate uses the Jailbreak Job to establish his bona fides -- if he can take down a warden while in jail, imagine what he can do for these guys. Or to these guys. Jimmy likes the carrot-and-stick approach, so Nate is in. Great! What's the plan?

Jimmy shows a map, which Nate later reproduces for the team. There are three banks marked in red. Parker breaks down the security at each bank -- none of them very impressive. Everyone looks at her. "What do you guys do on your weekends?" But none of them are the target. The gang controls the alarms, so they get the police to think they're all being hit at the same time. That draws them all away from the real target. Which Nate doesn't know. Flashback to more three card monte, and pointless guessing by young Nate. Older Nate realizes that they have too many cards in play to identify the queen; they need more information. Eliot and Hardison will work on the third phone. Sophie and Parker will check out the equipment being stored in the backroom. Nate will get his father to trust him.

Diner. On the sidewalk outside, Jimmy IDs a guy who works for a security company. He has a binder with the schematics and codes for their real target. The Russians will beat him up, steal his wallet and briefcase, and they're good to go. Nate proposes getting what they want with the mark none the wiser. They're gonna do an impromptu pill scam. So they approach the guy in the parking lot (Boston tends to have parking garages -- it's a dense city) asking for change. Geezer Jimmy "accidentally" drops some pills. The mark knows how expensive those things can be, so he kindly helps Nate collect them all while Jimmy grabs the necessary page. Easy peasy.

Meanwhile, Sophie gets the background on our Russian boss. Parker lifts a waitress apron for Sophie for her Little Orphan Annie. Waitress Sophie goes into the backroom with a tray of empty glasses and the Russian boss shoos her out. She drops a glass, which gives her a chance to linger and a chance to swear in Russian. This attracts Russian boss. Oh, no, she's not Russian (and her Boston accent would agree), but her parents were and that's something her father used to say. She hopes it wasn't too horrible. He reassures her. She uses details of his background to build her family history and gets him to teach her a little Russian. Meanwhile, Parker slips in through the back door to check out the gear in the duffel bags.

Eliot and Hardison track the third red phone to a coffee cart in the park, apparently near the precinct because the desk sergeant is getting a drink and recognizes them. Eliot claims the precinct picked up a gun which is tied to one of their cases. The sergeant advises them to get it before shift change, because evidence is being shipped out to Holyoke in the morning. The coffee vendor has the red phone.

Russian boss is not happy that Jimmy didn't call them about the alarm guy, but Jimmy says it's handled. Russian boss draws on Nate (once again) to chase him off, so Nate spins and punches him. The Russian punches him back and he falls into Jimmy. The fight continues. Afterwards, Nate ices his forehead and shares a drink with the old man. Jimmy confesses he doubted Nate's intentions when he joined them -- Nate says he joined Jimmy. He wonders what Jimmy is doing with the Russian bullies. Jimmy says he's going for one last score, then he's retiring to Ireland. Nate wonders if Jimmy wishes Nate's mother was going with him. Jimmy says she never understood him. "But she loved me." And that's the most important thing. (Anybody else getting the sense that Jimmy is a raging narcissist?)

Morning. HQ. Nate comes downstairs to find Sophie waiting. She chides him about his late night, but he was bonding. This is D-Day, so time to figure out the target. Nate heads down to the backroom to learn the score, but it's been cleaned out. Then he realizes something and checks his pockets. Flashback to Nate falling back into Jimmy, who lifts the remote for the black box. Well, this is a revolting development.

Hardison arrives but Nate has nothing to tell him. On a street somewhere, blackmailed Russian Guy delivers boxes to the gang. Sophie retrieves a map from the alley, but Nate has seen it before. Eliot, arriving with Parker in tow, tells him not to take out his anger on Sophie. Parker's happy they've got the backroom back. Sophie figures they just get Hardison to tell them how many banks in the target radius have alarms from the company they got the code sheet for. Parker already knows, it's 23. Hardison isn't sure it's a bank; the gang had bar code scanners. Eliot wonders about Coffee Guy's role. We see him put pills in some cups as Hardison hypothesizes that he'll drug the police. The whole precinct? Flashback to the three card monte lesson.

Nate figures it out. The trick to three card monte is that the queen is never on the table. Where do the police keep the evidence? Flashback to the desk sergeant telling Eliot that the evidence will be transferred in the morning. The Russians are going to get their stuff back. Flashback to Hardison telling the team about their recent losses to the police.

Coffee stand. Three guys attached to the transport truck pick up coffee. From a sidewalk bench nearby, Jimmy uses the remote to send three silent alarms to the precinct. The desk sergeant rallies the troops to head out as backup.

Transport truck. The driver yawns and drinks his coffee. (I never believe those coffee cups are anything but empty. People wave them around too easily or something.) A guy in uniform steps in front of him and he stops. It's Russian boss; the gang converges on the truck. Jimmy wanders into the precinct with paperwork on a clipboard (number one con prop right there). "Evidence transfer." The desk sergeant, busy with his emergency, waves him through. Jimmy meets the transport truck at the loading dock. One Russian stays behind to watch the sleeping guards; the rest head inside.

The team arrives at the precinct again, emergency plan outlined. Eliot wants to know why they don't just tip off the police, but Nate is worried about shooting. Down at the property room, the clerk gets the paperwork from Jimmy and then a whack on the head from a Russian. Jimmy unlocks the cage and warns the Russians they have a time limit. They sync up their bar code scanners to the evidence database and get to searching. Jimmy has something else to do.

Desk sergeant. "Viola D'Agostino" returns with her attorney, Jimmy Papadokolous, in tow, ready to sue. They need to see the precinct legal counsel. The harrassed desk sergeant sends them down the hall to wait for escort. Jimmy ventures upstairs and finds the Organized Crime Division. He cracks their safe and gets the notebook of payoffs that's the basis for the case against the three Irish mob families. Nate's there, with a gun. (Show of hands -- anyone think Nate is actually going to shoot his father?) Nate knows Jimmy is all about respect, not money. With the original ledger gone, the case disintegrates and the three families all owe Jimmy Ford. Jimmy proposes are partnership. Nate says it's too late; his team is taking down the Russians. Jimmy won't do time again, so Nate offers to shoot him. Jimmy says he could do it, but Nate is too much his mother's son. Nate lets him go. Jimmy blows him a kiss at the door.

Transport truck. Eliot knocks on the door and calls in Russian. The guard opens up and Eliot takes him out. Inside the property room, the bar code scanners are finding household goods. The Russians check their countdown clock and find just under two minutes left. Hardison is lurking amongst the shelves. (Does he need to get that close? With all the rushing around, he doesn't have good cover and he could probably hack them just as easily from outside the cage.)

Nate is moping in the OCD office when Parker opens a set of doors above the safe. (What on earth are those doing there?) They agree that Nate had to let Jimmy go, and she tosses down a rope so he can climb up. (Why he can't just walk out the door, I don't know. It's not like Sophie has to rappel out of the building.)

Evidence cage. The door looks. Russian boss can't believe it; the counter shows they still have time. But when it counts down to a minute, it resets to show two minutes. They're locked in with alarms going off. Hardison gloats from the property room doorway and departs. Police arrive and arrest the neatly boxed up Russians.

Boston street. Jimmy calls the three families, but he's not finding the reception he expected. In fact, he's nearly the victim of a drive-by shooting, except he has a handy pillar to hide behind. (The shooter has bright red hair.) Jimmy gets a call from Nate.

Docks. Meeting. Nate called all the families before Jimmy did. Flashback to Nate (at HQ, so before the heist) telling a family member that Jimmy wants money to destroy the ledger or he'll give it back to the police. So now Jimmy is a blackmailing SOB with a price on his head. Jimmy wonders if Nate wants him killed. Nate has an alternative: that boat there has a berth for Jimmy Logue (Mrs. Ford's maiden name); it will put into Galway in a couple of weeks. (Ireland is perhaps not the best place to hide from the Irish mob.) Jimmy is impressed that Nate could betray his own father; maybe Nate is better than him. (Don't push it.) He's proud of his boy. Jimmy heads aboard. Nate turns to leave and finds the team there. Sophie is surprised at how kind Nate was. Parker wonders if Nate will be nice now, but Hardison warns her not to expect any changes.

Comments: So where's the ledger now? Jimmy didn't have it when he headed out. Losing the original ledger probably won't tank the case against the families entirely. The police can use the transactions in the ledger as leads and develop additional evidence. At least the families will have to abandon some operations and come up with new methods of doing business that won't be under scrutiny.

I'm not convinced Jimmy is actually proud of Nate; he's just saying that to con Nate into thinking he's won. He's just doesn't connect at a basic, human level.


Thursday, August 05, 2010


The Boost Job

We join a high-speed chase in what purports to be Route 3 in Nashua, although Route 3 is not that wide, our exit numbers are not that high and our state police cars are not white. The license plates look right -- although unfortunately (as it turns out) the "stolen" truck also seems to have NH plates. Anyhow, the truck pulls over and the police converge on the driver, an ordinary-looking guy who claims he didn't steal the truck. The police fail to take his word for it, and arrest him.

Bar. Nate meets with the non-thief. He explains that he just panicked. He bought the truck used from Penzer, for his landscaping business. It supplements his Massachusetts teacher's salary, which he's not getting because he was suspended while the felony charges are being resolved. He was on a job in Nashua when a light came on, so he took it to a mechanic. The VIN number came up as suspicious, he left, and the rest is history. Now, no truck and no job, but he still has a loan to pay off.

HQ. Nate explains the scam -- thieves steal a car in one state, find a similar car in another state and use its VIN to register the stolen car in their own state. Each state has its own registry, so there's no cross-checking. The car was sold by Duke Penzer, a moderately successful race car driver (still keeping up those skills on the weekends) with a used car dealership in Peyton, MA. Their prices are really low. Sophie wonders where he's getting his cars. Parker figures he's working with a ring of car thieves. If he gets caught with a stolen car, he just claims it was sold by someone who has since left town. The team is not used to having Parker explain things, but it turns out she was a car thief for a while. Hardison has found a competing lot down the street; they're being driven out of business by Penzer after decades in the community.

Art's Auto Sales. A "representative" of the American Auto Dealers Association tells Art and wife Joy they're getting a lifetime achievement award, which comes with a 10 day vacation in Hawaii. They've already laid off their staff, so closing down saves them money. And away they go.

Race track. (Probably not the track at Loudon, which is a feature on the NASCAR circuit.) Penzer pulls up to a minion after finishing a lap. It wasn't perfect, but he beat his previous time, so it's a track record. Except someone just beat his record. By 15 seconds. "That's impossible!" he protests, and Hardison dials it back to 1.5 seconds. (Did they bug Penzer or his minion?) The new record holder pulls up in Eliot's red muscle car from the Gone Fishin' Job, only now Nate is driving. And whooping like a Duke boy outrunning Boss Hogg. (Perhaps he got whooping lessons from Evil Bo Duke Kirkwood.) He sets about yanking Penzer's chain. Sophie shows up, bored and fabulous in skin-tight black. "A.J. Lucas" challenges Penzer to a race for pink slips, and he pimps out his girlfriend, which would be grosser if the girlfriend looked like she had any intention of playing along. Penzer takes the bait.

Parker, Eliot and Hardison get the car in shape. Parker (wearing coveralls embroidered with the name "Cliff") has found out that a guy named Lefty runs the local car theft ring, so she'll be making contact once they're done at the track. Hardison has installed a kickier version of nitrous oxide; Eliot warns it will melt the manifold, so don't use it too soon. Hardison has also installed an EMP cannon on the rear of the car, where it won't interfere with any vital systems. The pulse from the cannon will knock out Penzer's electronics and he'll think he stalled. Nate has to get in front of Penzer so Hardison can trigger it.

Race. They're even out of the gate, but Penzer takes the lead on the turn and Nate can't get around him. Finally he triggers the nitrous mixture and takes it inside on a turn. He lines up in front of Penzer and Hardison triggers the pulse; Penzer's beloved Veronica craps out. Nate gloats and then drives off (melted manifold and all).

Penzer Autos. Penzer arrives to find the sales staff watching basketball. But it's Saturday -- where are all the customers? Turns out they're down the street at Art's, which has new management. Minion stopped by to check them out and they're raffling off Veronica. Minion has a ticket.

Art's. Penzer and Minion arrive to check out the revitalized competition. In addition to the low, low prices, he has an "unstoppable" salesman in the form of Sophie. She approaches Mr. Carey, who has been stopping by Penzer's to look (just look) on a weekly basis. She immediately notices his weight loss and compliments his self-discipline. In no time, she's seducing him (in the most salesmanlike way) into a new car. Penzer's lost a customer. "A.J." comes out to taunt Penzer some more. Penzer wants to buy Veronica back; "A.J." is prepared to overcharge him for the privilege. "Skeeter" (Eliot) interrupts to ask A.J. to take a call from "our foreign friends." Skeeter says "uno momento" and passes the phone over. Sophie comes over looking for approval for her contract and A.J. patronizes her, punctuating it with a slap on the ass. Penzer has an idea for revenge and heads out. Sophie extracts an apology for the slap from Nate.

Parker drives Hardison to a chop shop in a stolen car. She explains that rings are territorial, so Lefty "owns" this car. That will get them an introduction. They get out and manage to get the attention of the mechanic, who's surprised to see them with this car. He heads off to find someone. Hardison asks how she got into car theft. She was in foster care, around twelve, and met an older kid named Kelly who taught her the ropes. But then he ditched her on a job when the cops showed up. She spent six months in juvie and never saw him again. (Presumably this was shortly before she met Archie.)

The mechanic emerges from a doorway with Lefty and shows him the new guys. Hardison asks how this will play out. Parker says he'll try to run them off, so they have to prove their usefulness. "It's not gonna be easy. And they might shoot you a little."

Art's. "Katie" the closer is getting off work. Penzer's waiting outside to compliment her, and invites her for a drink. She knows he's trying to sell her something. Sure, but isn't she curious about what he's selling?

Mechanic. Lefty and some crew come over. "Danielle" and "Major" want to join up. Lefty doesn't have any vacancies. Danielle wonders if anyone can steal a car with "a laser-cut, rolling-code transponder key" in two minutes. They get a chance to prove themselves. The crew waits behind a gate while Danielle and Major enter a lot and pick a car. Hardison prompts Parker to "do her thing" but she's clueless. She's counting on him to hack it with his phone. And he's down to a minute 30 seconds now. Hardison works the patented Chris Tucker bug-eyed face of panic. Parker gets him working the problem. He can't crack the rolling code, but he can spoof the receiver. And voila! He pops the trunk. Second try unlocks the door. Parker gets in and works the backup startup sequence. Fortunately, that hasn't changed since the last time she stole this kind of car, so it starts. Lefty allows as they might be useful. He summons Shorty (a teenaged girl) to watch them on the way back to the chop shop. This is not a development Parker and Hardison expected.

Penzer has brought "Katie" to his office for a drink, and offers her a job at twice her salary. Unlike A.J., he appreciates her abilities; he'll make her manager at Art's once A.J. is out. But she has to tell him how A.J. can afford such low prices. She talks about "alternative suppliers" with "minimal overhead" and Penzer figures out A.J. sells stolen cars.

Eliot, masquerading as a concerned citizen, calls the police to report some Spanish-speaking gangbanger-looking guys loitering in the area of Penzer's lot. He then pulls out a bat and heads for Penzer's inventory.

Chop shop. Shorty has climbed out, so Parker tells Hardison to expect a small operation. So naturally they find a bunch of guys at work on a bunch of cars. Shorty scans their car for alarm tracking systems but doesn't find a signal.

Penzer Autos. Car alarms go off. Penzer and "Katie" discover a lot of smashed up vehicles. Katie offers to phone the police but Penzer doesn't want anyone snooping around. Katie "realizes" he's running the same scam as A.J. -- selling stolen merchandise. Penzer calls Lefty. Shorty handles the tour of the operation. They've got a chop shop for parts, VIN cloning and even ID theft (off license and registration documents from the glove boxes). Shorty has a major hero worship for the new crew members. She gets Hardison to show her the phone thing.

Parker suggests to Nate that they just call the cops on the operation but he's not changing the plan. A crew like this will disappear before the police arrive, plus it won't bring down Penzer. Nate asks Sophie for Penzer's deductive progress. Lefty tells Penzer about an alert they heard on the police scanner about Spanish-speaking gangbangers. Flashback to "Skeeter" interrupting A.J. to take a call from "our foreign friends." Lefty figures the only group big enough to supply A.J. are the Salvadorans, who were down in Florida. Except now they appear to be in Peyton. Penzer figures they might not be happy with A.J. if he loses a shipment. He talks Katie into switching sides. He'll show her his operation tomorrow morning, if she gives him A.J.'s next shipment. She gives -- tomorrow morning at the docks.

Chop shop. Shorty is practicing with the slim jim to unlock a car door. It's clear that the rest of the crew doesn't consider her someone who could actually boost a car; her job function runs more toward ordering pizza. Parker helps her concentrate by covering her ears, and she does it. The peanut gallery pipes down. Parker gives her a pep talk. Lefty announces that they have a big job in the morning, so everyone should be there. Including Shorty. Hardison tells Nate, "The hook is set." He sends them out to get bait. Parker and Hardison respond by stealing a bunch of cars from a country club. Eliot helps load them onto a transporter and drives off.

Chop shop. Night. Shorty is practicing when Parker warns her off the morning boost. The crew will be going down. And she should know that the crew isn't her family, so they don't really care about her. Shorty has a lot to process.

Later, Lefty has summoned Penzer to hear Shorty's tip about the new guys. Penzer realizes they're setting him up in cahoots with "A.J." and decides to turn the tables. Pack up the shop, then get to the docks early to steal the cars and take them to Penzer's lot. As for the new guys, kill 'em. Shorty's not down with that, but Penzer suggests she toughen up. Shorty has a lot more to process.

HQ. Morning. Running down the plan. Lefty called to push the job back by half an hour, which Nate figures gives Eliot more time to unload. Sophie will get Penzer to the chop shop, where the cops will catch them with the stolen cars.

Docks. Eliot (who wasn't at the meeting) drives up with the cars and is met by guys with guns. They demand the keys to the cars. He throws them into the air, knocks a couple down and runs off. They shoot a lot, to no avail. Eliot runs into a car, rolls over the hood and splashes into the water off the dock. (If the car had hit him, instead of him hitting the car, he would have been thrown forward, but he went sideways off the car.) Lefty reports progress to Penzer. He'll bring the cars while the rest of the crew handles the new guys. Penzer has something for Lefty to handle -- Katie is sitting in his office.

"Danielle" and "Major" arrive at the docks but the people and the cars are missing. Hardison can't raise Eliot on the coms. Four guys with guns approach and Parker yells, "GO!" She and Hardison run and hide while the shooting starts. This attracts Nate's attention. He can't raise Eliot either. He warns Sophie to skip but Penzer pulls a gun on her when she tries to excuse herself. Nate promises to rescue her, but he needs help from Parker and Hardison. They aren't feeling particularly helpful at the moment. Penzer gets a call and steps out of his office, leaving "Katie" alone. Parker and Hardison continue to get shot at. The four guys corner them. Sophie starts to sneak out and meets Nate, but Penzer shows up with his gun and they all wait for Lefty. Back at the docks, the guys with guns back Parker and Hardison up to the water, and wonder what they find so amusing about their situation. They're just waiting for Eliot, who comes up behind the bad guys. Hardison and Parker assist and the bad guys are dispatched. Shorty drives up just as they're casting around for a car that hasn't been shot up. Hardison lets Nate know the cavalry is on the way.

Penzer Autos. Lefty arrives with the cars. Penzer wants him to take Nate and Sophie but keep them quiet; he doesn't want any cops snooping around the stolen cars.

Cavalry car. Parker, behind the wheel, chews out Shorty for tipping off the bad guys. Hardison and Eliot are not happy to hear that Parker tipped off Shorty, and shouting ensues. Shorty is confused: "Who are you people?" "WE'RE THE GOOD GUYS!" yells Parker. She is perhaps a little stressed at the moment, trying to concentrate on her driving.

Leaving Penzer Autos, Nate prompts Sophie to stall, so she knees him in the groin and chews him out for getting her into this mess. The cavalry car is still en route. Eliot asks Parker where she learned to drive, and she explains that she was a getaway driver before she turned car thief. Hardison connects some dots: "Before? You started stealing cars when you were twelve." Flashback to mini-Parker driving a perplexed thief with police in pursuit.

Back at Penzer Autos, Penzer yells for "Katie" and "A.J." to shut up. Which they do, but only because all the alarms on the newly-arrived stolen cars go off. Penzer has Lefty escort the prisoners inside and uses the keys to turn off the alarms. (The cars are stolen, so where did the keys come from?) The police arrive. Penzer pretends everything is fine. He just took delivery of these cars this morning. Anything wrong? Yes. They're getting tons of signals from alarm systems; these cars are all stolen. Flashback to Lefty saying they scanned all the cars. Flashback to Eliot using the pulse cannon to silence the cars' alarm systems. Penzer tells the police he just took delivery of the cars, so the guy they need to talk to is inside. He's obviously planning to hand them Nate as the source, but there's no Nate, or Sophie, just an unconscious Lefty. Flashback to the cavalry car arriving at the side door. Eliot jumps out and goes inside. "What's up, man?" Smack. Thud. Nate, Sophie and Eliot run out the door and everyone drives off in the cavalry car.

Penzer starts yelling as he's placed under arrest. The detective suggests he calm down; it will make things easier on everyone. Down the street at Art's, Shorty wonders at the speedy response time by the police. Parker explains that the cars' owners were "highly motivated." Flashback to Hardison and Parker stealing cars at the country club. Which is hosting a golf tournament. For the Massachusetts Police Union. Hardison wonders why Eliot didn't warn them about the guys with the guns.Well, there was the pulse cannon that took out the earbud (Hardison warned him to take it out first) and then there was the water. Hardison is willing to work on the waterproofing. Nate grumps about getting kneed and Sophie returns his excuse of "selling the bit." She asks him to go easy on Parker; she tried to do the right thing, which means she's thinking about what the right thing is. Nate summons Parker but declines to chew her out.

Bar. Nate tells the client that all charges have been dropped. And here's Penzer's race car, worth $150,000. He's should put it into the business, maybe hire some help. Parker offers Shorty as an employee. The civilians leave. Nate and Parker agree that Shorty's a good kid who just needs to spend time with the right people. The team settles down to dinner. Hardison demands recognition of his contribution to the fight at the docks, and Parker admits that he hit the little guy. Nate thanks Eliot for the car. Eliot says he can use it whenever he wants, but Nate says the shoe is on the other foot: Hardison changed the pink slip. Eliot's not having it.

Comments: Bill Engvall makes a fun villain.

You'd think sharing VIN numbers among states would be a simple matter, but getting dozens of independent organizations to standardize on a single set of data definitions is one of the most annoying tasks known to mankind. Especially if state legislatures are involved.


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