Recap / Leverage S 04 E 04 The Van Gogh Job

Charlie Lawson, an African American veteran reminisces at his home town roller rink. Frank, a retrieval specialist, posing as an FBI agent asks him for the location of a painting. Charlie recognizes the fake and refuses to help the treasure hunter who warns that his employers and others will stop at nothing to obtain the work of art. Fear and anger cause Charlie's heart to fail.

Owen, a former colleague of Nate, brings him the case believing Charlie was targeted for the same missing Van Gogh he has been searching for his whole career. The team heads to Willamette where Charlie is hospitalized, to protect him and use whatever he knows to get the painting first. He is initially reluctant but then agrees to tell the story, only to Parker. Just before WWII, Charlie became friends with heiress Dorothy Ross who played the organ at the roller rink. Over time he would fall in love with her, and the two would make plans to see the world one day. Unfortunately her father and the local gang did not approve of a black man courting a white girl. Charlie enlisted in the military thinking he could see the world and maybe change the town's opinion of him. In France, his unit came under fire from a German sniper, and Charlie took him out in one shot. He would not however, receive the credit or a medal because of his race. Furious, Charlie came upon the dead German's belongings, among them a painting by Van Gogh, and a letter to the soldier's girlfriend suggesting they could live off the money by selling it. When Charlie returns home, he suggests to Dorothy that the painting could provide for them so they can run away together and she accepts. With the help of her organ teacher Cecilia, Dorothy slips out in the middle of a performance unseen. Charlie waits for her but Dorothy’s father and the local thugs find him first. He scares them off with a dud grenade escaping in time to meet Dorothy and a train out of town. Tearfully, Dorothy realizes it isn’t safe for her to leave, or for Charlie to stay. He gives her the painting to keep safe, and a kiss goodbye.

In the present day, the team uses clues from Charlie’s story checking first his old home where Eliot runs into Frank and chases him off. Next they try the home Dorothy left to her daughter, where Sophie finds a key to a safety deposit box full of cash. When Charlie finishes his tale Nate figures out that Dorothy hid the painting in one of the organ pipes. However the moment Nate and Eliot retrieve it, Owen arrives with hired muscle and demands they hand the painting over. Greed and obsession have overcome Owen’s original motive for seeking the Van Gogh. Nate pulls a misdirect by burning the empty sleeve which Owen desperately attempts to save while Eliot handles the goons. The team returns the painting to Charlie with Nate’s confirmation that Dorothy had kept it and saved many years of tips in case he ever returned. More than satisfied, Charlie donates the painting to a museum, and the team heads home.

Tropes used in "The Van Gogh Job":

  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Early in the flashback to Charlie's service in WWII, a soldier mentions a batch of dud grenades, handing in one of them to Charlie in exchange for a good one. A later flashback shows that Charlie kept at least one of the duds, which he uses for his Fake in the Hole stunt.
    • The bigger Chekhov's Gun of the episode is the Wurlitzer pipe organ at the Roller Palace. Charlie mentions it in his initial description of what the Palace was like in the '40s, and the fact that Dorothy plays the Wurlitzer is brought up numerous times. It is no surprise at all when Nate finds the Van Gogh hidden in one of the organ's pipes.
  • Fake in the Hole: Charlie pulls the pin on the dud grenade he brought back from the war in order to scare off Mr. Ross's thugs.
  • Improvised Weapon: Eliot beats up Owen's goons with a pipe taken out of the organ (and seems rather pleased with the sound it makes).
  • MacGuffin: The lost Van Gogh painting, which Nate calls "the white whale of art-theft recovery."
  • Noodle Incident: Randall, one of the "retrieval experts" hunting for the Van Gogh, owes Eliot $27,000 for something that happened in Singapore involving a Hofner bass guitar belonging to Paul McCartney.
  • Significant Double Casting: Key characters in the flashback sequences telling Charlie's story are played by the five main cast members, largely as a device to illustrate that Charlie sees echoes of himself and Dorothy in the relationship between Hardison and Parker. Aside from Aldis Hodge and Beth Riesgraf playing Charlie and Dorothy for the flashbacks, Timothy Hutton (Nate) plays Willamette's sheriff, Gina Bellman (Sophie) plays the Englishwoman the sheriff married during the war, and Christian Kane (Eliot) plays the lieutenant in charge of Charlie's unit in France.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Charlie and Dorothy almost ran away together, but in the end Dorothy balked, knowing that her father would hunt them down and Charlie would suffer for it. They never saw each other again; Charlie traveled the world while Dorothy remained in Willamette and eventually married a local man. By the time of Charlie's return, she's been dead for three years.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Nate explains to Charlie his conclusion that Dorothy hid the Van Gogh in the Wurlitzer in order to watch over it as he'd asked her to, and that she saved her tips over the years in the hope that he would come back and they could be together. As they leave, Sophie points out that they have no way of knowing if this explanation is the real story; Nate agrees but dismisses her point by noting that "it's the best story."
  • White Gal On Black Guy Drama: The whole reason that Charlie and Dorothy's romance is a star-crossed one is that she is white and he is black. It's also the reason he enlists in the army - partly to get out of town before a lynch mob comes calling, partly in the hope that if he becomes a war hero Dorothy's father will be willing to let them marry.
    Charlie: [narrating] Now, Willamette City is not Selma, Alabama, but it was 1942. And a black man making overtures to a white woman was literally a crime.