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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