The first episode of the second season nails down what the first season built toward: Sophie, Eliot, Hardison, and Parker are a team; Nate still think he’s better than they are. “I am not a thief,” he tells them when they try to get the gang together again, but there’s somebody in trouble and Nate’s a sucker for saving people.
Nate starts off taking a straight, white collar job, but bolts at the last minute; that’s his old life and he can’t go back. He heads for a bar but is interrupted by . . .
. . . an accident right in front of him. He rescues a little girl and her father, whose car was sabotaged.
Later that night, he goes to Sophie’s debut as Maria in The Sound of Music and sees Parker, Hardison, and Eliot: Sophie invited everybody, telling them that she doesn’t sing as well as she acts, but oh well . . . When her performance is panned, the team tries to talk Nate into doing a theft to cheer her up, but he refuses, saying, “I am not a thief.” Then he goes upstairs to his condo above the bar and is attacked in his apartment. Sophie saves him and then knocks him out by accident; when he comes to, his apartment is full of the team.
Change of Plans: The team finds out about the sabotaged car and investigates in spite of Nate’s refusal to get involved (“I am not a thief”), turning the plot from the story of Nate trying to go straight and sober alone, to the story of Nate protesting while the team moves into his apartment and begins to investigate.
The team discovers a mob/bank scam and starts compiling intel, and as Nate looks at what they’ve gathered, he’s drawn into analysis and planning in spite of himself.
Point of No Return: Nate talks himself back into the game, turning the plot from the story of Nate trying to get rid of the team to the story of Nate leading one more Robin Hood job.
The team constructs a perfect con, targeting the mob boss in charge of the operation (FUSCO!) and executing it beautifully. But there’s a problem.
Crisis: The mob boss isn’t in charge, it’s the banker, and their whole con is useless, turning the plot from a close-knit team executing a well-organized con to a close-knit team improvising on the fly.
Climax: . . . the hospital where he runs into the state police who discover that he’s loaded with evidence that incriminates him.
Resolution: Nate agrees to keep working with the team until he finds a real job he likes enough that he’ll stay out of bars. He asks Sophie to dinner and finds out she’s dating somebody else, then walks away from a drink and goes back to his apartment where he finds Hardison turning it into a team command center. When Nate protests, Hardison explains that he bought the building as Eliot cuts a door in the wall to the next apartment. The family is home again, and the team is on for one more job, even if Mom is dating somebody who’s not Dad.
COMMUNITY STATUS: The Kids Are All Right, Parents Not So Much
This episode had to do a helluva lot: Find a plausible reason for the team to meet again (thank you, Sophie, that helps make up for the second David), find a plausible reason to team up again (they miss each other because it’s more fun as a team), find a plausible reason to drag Nate back into the team (Hey, Nate, you got any people in trouble you want to help?) and then show what all of last season was about.
One way to judge the arc of a story is to look at the first scene/chapter/episode and the last, and compare the characters. The team in the first episode of the first season wasn’t even a team; they were a bunch of people hired to do a job. The same people at the beginning of this episode aren’t just a team, they’re a great team, focused, light on their feet, able to make split second changes in their plans because they trust each other and have great communication skills (and not just because of Hardison’s coms). If the promise at the end of the first episode in the first season was, “Watch these people become a team,” the promise of the first episode of the second season is “Watch what this team can do,” because once viewers/readers have watched a team form, they want to see it at work.
Now if they could just keep Nate from drinking and Sophie from acting . . .