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It’s said that a hero is only as strong as his or her villain, and in that respect, the modern-day Robin Hoods of Leverage have always come up a bit short. As clever as their cons have been, as intricate as their heists have seemed, and as amusing as their costumes have looked, they’ve generally been used to fool a series of hapless boobs and bullies. Rich jerks whose nonsensical actions sometimes leave you wondering how they ever managed to get rich in the first place.
The Gone Fishin’ Job, is a prime example of this. The villain of the week is Hugh Whitman (played by Clancy Brown, of Carnivale fame). He extorts money from saps who owe back-taxes, which he then uses to fund a private militia with plans to overthrow the US government (it doesn’t make much more sense in the episode). His brilliant plan involves sending his thugs to people’s homes, having them claim to be from the IRS, and then walking away with the victim’s credit cards. In defense of his evil scheme, I’d say that people who voluntarily hand their credit cards over to someone who shows up at their door without so much as examining their identification or asking for some sort of receipt deserve to have their money stolen. No wonder they’re in so much debt already.
Whitman’s mistakes are numerous. He falls for almost the exact same con he pulls on people, this time with Spencer and Hardison (Christian Kane and Aldis Hodge) pretending to be the IRS agents. He, in a panic, takes all his money out of his account, and then allows the briefcase he put it in to be stolen right underneath his nose (considering how aware I am of my wallet when it contains my miniscule paycheck, I can only imagine how attached I’d be to a briefcase holding millions of dollars). Furthermore, in my personal favorite blunder, he and his army have their guns drawn on Spencer and Hardison not once, not twice, but three times, and each time, instead of just shooting them, they allow the team to talk for long enough to get out of the jam (clearly these guys have never seen a James Bond movie, or Austin Powers, for that matter). One time they even fall for the classic “how about you grant a dying man one last request” move.
A non threatening villain is forgivable if the action around him is at least funny, but sadly, this episode is short on humor as well. The main con, with Ford (Timothy Hutton) pretending to run a money laundering business disguised as a gym, doesn’t allow for any of the wacky costumes or accents which Leverage likes to generate laughs through. Without these distractions, the episode’s shortcomings are all the more obvious. Normally I could let slide a scene where Hardison sets off a perfectly timed and placed explosion. But without anything else to focus on, I couldn’t help but be annoyed at how the explosion managed to knock unconscious everyone standing on either side of our heroes, but somehow left the good guys awake and alert enough to run away.
Leverage will probably never be a great show, but generally an episode has enough good stuff in it that I’m less bothered by its flaws. But here, where we have an incompetent villain, an uninteresting con, and a distinct lack of laughs, there’s nothing else to focus on. Hopefully this was just a blip on the radar and next week more of the show’s elements will work than don’t. And, while we’re at it, hopefully the show will soon deliver us an antagonist worthy of our merry band of con artists’ talents. For an audience to believe in them as true heroes, they’re going to need it.