Leverage has five members in its community which is a problem if you want to arc your characters by showing how the events of their stories change them and make them grow. One solution is to skip the character arcs and just do action stories, but that leaves a story with characters who become boring because they always react the same way, always do the same thing, Trying to arc each team member in every episode is just as bad; it results in truncated, chaotic plots and not much growth. A third option, giving an episode over to a single team member, would be almost as bad because it would kill the focus on community that makes this show so strong. The Leverage writers went with a different solution: giving characters their own subplots at different times in the series, making sure those subplots are integrated completely into the main plot so the character growth stuff never stops the main con plot in its tracks. “The Juror #6 Job” is a great example of this use of subplot. This is a diagram of the main con plot (red) and character subplot (pink).
The first minute of the plot sets up the reason for the con (a man died taking pills the manufacturer knew weren’t safe); the second minute of the plot sets up the character problem: Parker still isn’t a team player. She’s taking risks and endangering the rest of the team and she won’t listen when they tell her she’s hurting the work they do. Then she opens her mail and finds out that one of her aliases has jury duty, and Nate says she has to go. If she has to work with eleven other people, maybe she’ll learn something.
From then on, the plot and subplot merge because of course Parker finds out somebody’s rigging the jury and brings the team in on it. Now Parker has to connect to people in order to fulfill her part of the con. There are three places at roughly the turning points in the plot where Parker’s subplot gets its own scenes: when Sophie tries to train her to convince people to do things, at the midpoint when one of the jurors tells her she’s the nicest one there, and at the crisis point when she says “I can’t do this.” The rest of the plot focused on the twists and turns of the con, keeping the story moving. At the end, there’s two minutes of resolution, one minute for the con in general with some father/son bonding between Nate and Hardison, and one minute for Parker who has an invitation to lunch from “Alice’s friend.” Parker has made a small but significant leap in her character arc, and no main plots were harmed in the process. (Hardison also has a very small character arc in this as Nate has to throw him into the deep end to fake being the widow’s lawyer. He’s having a hard time, but when he apologizes to the widow, she tells him he’s the best lawyer she’s ever had, and then at the end Nate tells him he can do anything. Which Hardison of course snarks about, but still, small growth arc there for Hardison.)
And now the community. After nine episodes, the team is still evolving into family, but by now it’s a family that recognizes each other’s personality problems and is willing to point them out, in this episode, Parker’s selfish addiction to risk which happens in part because she doesn’t connect to the other people enough to see what she’s doing to them. Her detachment from people is shown in the way she speaks of Alice in the third person and continually has to be told by the others on the team that she’s Alice. But this is a family that also helps, so they all come together to coach Parker on how to be human, with Sophie taking the lead in the Mom role.
Parker’s success is shown when a person Parker meets on the jury sends her a note asking her to have coffee. Parker says, “Alice made a friend,” only to be told for the umpteenth time, “You’re Alice, you’ve made a friend,” and it finally sinks in: Parker has a friend. She’s still crazy, but if you look at who she is in this episode compared to who she was in the pilot, the change is clear, and it was done without Parker saying, “Hey, I feel different,” or the writers stopping the main plot for a Very Special Parker Moment: she made her friend and moved her character arc not just while she was working the team con, but because she was working the team con, as part of the team con.
Fun fact: The production hired Apollo Robbins to come in and train Beth Riesgraf to do lifts. She became so good at it that Robbins said she could probably do it as a living. Almost every lift Parker does in the series was really done by the actress.
Equally Fun Fact: Robbins plays Parker’s doppelgänger in “The 2 Live Crew Job,” so his character’s lifts are real, too.
The plot breakdown is coming later, probably tomorrow, because I let this slide. Very sorry. More tomorrow. Argh.