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.


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