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.