Leverage Sunday: The San Lorenzo Job: Turning Points

 

San Lorenzo 1 Leverage had five seasons, or as I think of them, four acts and an epilogue. That means that for me, the season finales were all turning points, events that picked up the series over-all story (and the community) and turned them in a new direction. The finale of the first season was the wonderful double “First and Second David Jobs,” the first episode destroying the team and scattering them, and the second bringing them all back together as each one voluntarily returns to bring down the bad guy, making the breaks stronger at the mend because they each chose to mend the breaks. Nate’s a drunk, Sophie’s lied to them, they’re all loners but that community, that family is too important to desert. At the end of Season One, the Leverage team knows they’re not there for expediency, they’re there because they want to be there. That turning point spins them into their second act where, now that they’re invested in the community, they have to face its problems, most notably Nate and his drinking, which is why the second season finale episodes “The Three Strikes Job” and “The Maltese Falcon Job,” bring the team again to the point of disintegration. Nate’s alcoholism combined with his need to win puts them all in so much danger that nemesis Sterling offers Nate an out to save him. The problem: the out is just for Nate; his team goes down. Nate goes behind the team’s back again and cons everybody so that, at the end, the team escapes on a helicopter, mad as hell at him for not making them part of the decision, and he bleeds into the pavement as he’s arrested, saying the words that will set him free: “I’m Nate Ford, and I’m a thief.” And that turning point spins them into their third act where they call Nate to account and begin to work, not as a team with a central leader, but as a family that cooperates. Once the sense of Nate’s authority has been torn down, they can finally find the security they need to establish permanence. Nobody talks about walking away any more. And since the community is now established, each member can reveal more about his or her past–Parker in “The Inside Job,” Hardison in “The Scheherazade Job,” Sophie in “The King George Job,” and Eliot in “The Big Bang Job,” the first episode of the finale–and come to terms with it. The security of knowing who they are and where they belong helps them all understand where they’ve come from. There’s a lot of growing up in Season Three for everybody, including Nate and Sophie. And that’s why “The San Lorenzo Job,” the final episode of Season Three, is such turning point: When arch-enemy Damien Moreau escapes to the tiny country of San Lorenzo where he controls the government, Nate doesn’t say, “Here’s what we’re going to do,” he says, “Please.” In full, Nate says, “Now Moreau is sitting in San Lorenzo, a country with no extradition, with his own private security, and he’s going to wait this out until it blows over. But he will be back, I guarantee it. Now we’ve been in this situation before and I pushed you into it . . . . so I’ve pushed you, I’ve tricked you, I’ve lied to you. So now, I’m just going to ask you. And if any of you, any of you, say no, then it’s done. We don’t do it.” Then after a long pause. “Please.” The next scene is the team planning the con, which means it’s a brand new world: majority, aka the community, rules. Compare that to “The Nigerian Job,” the pilot in which Nate gives orders, controlling a fractious bunch of loners who don’t want to be together with the sheer force of his authority, holding himself above them because they’re criminals and he’s an honest man. It’s an amazing transformation, and everything in this episode shows how far they’ve come and how much they’ve changed. Eliot’s estimation of Parker as completely insane has changed so much that when she sings to determine how far beneath the street they are, he just accepts that she’s right. Where Sophie used to con Nate to convince him to do what she wanted, now she just does it: he tells her not to join their candidate on the podium and she walks up anyway and becomes the Evita of San Lorenzo, saving their con. Over and over again, each member does his or her thing, and the others accept it as normal, natural, and valuable. They’re a winning team. But their win here is a turning point, a crisis point, not a climax. They’re so good now, they’ve attracted attention. People know who they are; hell, they stole a whole country. They’ve lost one of their big advantages, and now they’re going to have to work in plain sight. Worse than that, now they’re marks. Everybody’s going to want to get in on their success. And that’s what spins them into the fourth act, the season where they deal with a powerful financier who works behind the scenes to cash in on their jobs, trying to lure them into partnership with him and when that doesn’t work, trying to bring them down. There’s another aspect to “The San Lorenzo Job” that’s also a turning point: Nate and Sophie wake up together. That means that they’re going to be negotiating the long, slow burn of their relationship on a different level, and that’s going to have an impact on the team, too, another adjustment in community dynamics that’s going to be complicated by the evolving Hardison/Parker relationship. Season Four is going to see the team at the top of their game which is a damn good thing because the season becomes a crucible, changing everyone irrevocably. A good turning point throws a story into its next act reborn; a series of good turning points escalates the dynamics of each story, raising the stakes and the tension. The finales of the first three seasons of Leverage do just that, sending the series into the finale of the fourth season, a near perfect climax to four years of great story-telling. Having said all of that, “The San Lorenzo Job” deserves a lot of praise for just being a great political caper movie. It’s just fun, with Nate playing a polished James Carville, Sophie doing Evita, and Eliot, Parker, and Hardison doing what they do with such polished, mature flair that they’re the epitome of confidence porn. This episode also has my favorite Hardison description ever. When Moreau, flummoxed because Nate is beating him, says, “I have the media. I have the guns. I have the government,” Nate says, “I have a twenty-four-year-old genius with a smart phone and a problem with authority.” There’s a lot of pride and love in that statement, and it’s reflected in everything else the team says and does, too. As Sophie says at the end, “We’re a team finally,” and because of that, it’s enormous fun to watch them work. San Lorenzo 2

15 thoughts on “Leverage Sunday: The San Lorenzo Job: Turning Points

  1. I always felt that that episode was also a homage to that great literary conman, Slippery Jim DiGriz. Specifically, The Stainless Steel Rat For President.

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  2. I just spent the weekend watching the finale of season 4 on back-to-back replay, because it was just so satisfying to me. I also like in the San Lorenzo Job when Nate’s talking to Moreau about what they’ve just done and says that they didn’t need to win the election, they stole it. It felt like a cementing of Nate’s shift in thinking.

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    1. That’s my favorite of the finales, possible my favorite episode. It’s really wonderful to watch the pilot and then watch that one.

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  3. I’ve just started watching Leverage recently (after years of people saying, “You have to watch Leverage!”). I’m a little ways into Season two, I think. Nice to know it holds up over time. I love this gang.

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  4. Loved this episode. I liked that Nate asked for their help instead of manipulating it. There were, also, a lot of statements in this episode that were good observations about the world, like it doesn’t matter if you really won the election as long as you claim victory. After that nobody believes anything else no matter how much evidence you pile up. I always tell my friends that, when they’re stuck in a situation between a Lie and The Truth, they need to be the first person to address it with someone they care about. “Get there first,” is always my advice, “because people will always believe the first person that gets to them.” Quickly followed by, “But don’t be surprised if they don’t *want* to believe you because people believe what they want.” I always end up quoting another Timothy Hutton series, Nero Wolfe, when people were demanding Wolfe confirm or deny some accusation. The people had already said he was a liar, and after demanding he explain himself, he said, “If I lie, what does it matter?” Then got up and walked away. That always made an impact on me, and I’ve learned as I got older it’s very true. And now I think I’m OT. LOL.

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  5. I like that Sophie can’t resist showing up for her own funeral. Again. And that the naive politician learns a few tricks, too.

    Thanks to this blog I am working my way through the series and just watched “The Experimental Job” last night. Poor Hardison, he’s getting stomped on lately.

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  6. Are we doing the first episode of season 4? It’s got probably my favourite Parker growth moment, and my favourite Elliot quote – one of those ones you repeat to yourself at tough times.

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    1. Nope. It’s a wonderful episode, and the Eliot-and-Parker scenes really amazing, but it’s not a particularly community illuminating episode. Also, I’m trying to finish this up after hitting the wall a month or so back. Argh.

      We’re doing “The Lonely Hearts Job” because I want to talk about romance and community, and the terrific two-part season four finale because that’s really the climax for the community. Then maybe “The Broken Wing Job” to complete Parker’s arc, and I’m really tempted to do “Rundown” and “Frame-Up” because of foreshadowing what happens after the community has reached stability. And then the series finale that shows what happens to the community.

      The thing is, we could watch every episode to see how they arc character, they’re just that good. But since the focus is on writing community . . .

      Also we need to stop watching Leverage (g). It’s addictive.

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  7. One scene in this episode that hasn’t been mentioned yet, was when Moreau talks with Nate & threatens him a bit. Nate said his hacker had access to all the video cameras & security in the place and if anything happened, it would be made public. Moreau leaves in a huff. Hardison says to Nate, you know I haven’t done any of that. Nate nods and Hardison is like, I should get right on that. Nate, nodding, yep. Such fun!

    Nate told Moreau at the end that they ran an American election. The sad thing is how true that statement is. Anyone else annoyed with news stations declaring election winners with like 6% of the vote recorded?

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    1. As Nate points out in this episode, the majority of people get their news online anyway. I do care a lot about the blatant lies in campaigns that news stations don’t investigate and report as lies. In San Lorenzo, Hardison put out all those blatant lies and it worked like a charm. Does here, too.

      The episode is so light and so fast moving that it’s easy to miss the cynicism that runs through it. They really did steal that election by using, as Hardison said, the most successful American political tactics. It’s funny in San Lorenzo, not so much here.

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  8. To be honest, this episode was always “meh” to me. I suspect that has more to do with the fact that I found the whole Damien Moreau through-line dull and disappointing than with the episode’s actual merits, which you’ve illuminated beautifully. But this episode made me not care about keeping up with S4 in real time – I had a newborn, 2 school age kids, and I’d found Doctor Who on Netflix, so it’s fair to say I was distracted. ;p I recently went through all 5 seasons – the finale notwithstanding, waiting for the Hubbin to have 45 minutes to watch it with me 🙂 – and this series holds up better than most. The community is so strong, at all the different stages, that even the worst of this series offerings is better than most. imho 🙂 For comparison, I also just ran through ALL 7 seasons of Buffy and getting past S4 was HARD. The series took a series left turn and the characters did not adapt well, again, imho. Even when Leverage breaks its own paradigm, the characters and the community buffer the blow.

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