Recap / Leverage S 04 E 10 The Queens Gambit Job
Olivia and Nate test their chess skills.

"The only thing Robert ever did was…well, he taught me how to play Chess. But, It’s my real dad who taught me how to win."

Nate and Sophie are about to have a romantic evening when Sterling shows up, asking for help. Nate asks what’s in it for him, and Sterling says he’ll owe him a favor.

A rogue nation is trying to get some uranium refinery centrifuges up and running, and they need a very specific part to calibrate them.

What’s needed to calibrate the centrifuges is a weight with such a specific atomic mass there’s only one of its kind in the world. It’s owned by a man named Livingston who keeps it in his skyscraper in Dubai. Sterling needs Nate to steal it before Livingston can sell it. Livingston is hosting a Chess tournament there, and Nate is going to enter it as a contestant.

Livingston introduces the tournament, and his step-daughter Olivia, who’s a chess prodigy and the favorite to win. Nate figures while the tournament’s going on, Livingstone will be focused on her, and not on the weight. There’s a problem though; the terrorist buyers are already there. Eliot and Sterling waylay them while Hardison, posing as a Sheik’s son, asks to speak to Livingston and gets him to show off his security.

The team discusses the security in the vault and for the weight’s container. The weight is so specifically calibrated that so much as a grain of sand could throw it off. The container it's in is pressurized and alarmed. Further complicating things are the vault's security — the floor is rigged to register weight and walking gait, keyed to Livingston exactly. In order to get in, they have to mimic his walking style, and his very particular limp.

As the tournament begins, the team makes preparations for breaking into the vault. Things start to go awry when Livingstone is informed the delegation has arrived and the buyers get instructions to take the weight immediately.

Nate works his way through the contestants, with Sophie helping to sabotage, and makes it to the final round against Olivia. Meanwhile, Parker puts on waited boots and plays a rigged up Dance Dance Revolution game to teach her how to mimic Livingston's walk. Parker is freaking out — the shoes are so heavy she can't run in them. She can't escape if she gets into trouble. Hardison comforts her by saying if she gets in trouble, she has him to back her up and save her.

Eliot and Sterling move to head off the terrorists, but Eliot collapses. Sterling did something to his coffee.

As the final round begins, Nate says he can guarantee Parker at least five minutes as she breaks in. Meanwhile, Eliot begins to come to and he is not happy. Parker is almost to the weight when one of her boots breaks, scattering ball bearings on the floor.

In the tournament room, Sterling tips off one of the contestants that Sophie sabotaged one of the contestants, and security hauls her off. Sterling heads up to the vault while Parker is trying to get the weight and sets off the alarm. Nate tries to delay the terrorists but nearly gets his head blown off. Eliot arrives in time to save his skin and tells him what Sterling was up to. Parker escapes through the elevator shaft and makes it to the roof.

Nate orders everyone out while he goes after Sterling. Hardison, Eliot, and Sophie meet up while Nate heads Sterling off. Parker gets trapped on the roof, but is able to escape with the chute Hardison packed for her. The others collect her and go off to meet Nate.

Nate confronts Sterling about the lies, which Sterling insists were to protect Olivia, his informant, but that’s not what Nate’s talking about.

Nate: I knew she was your informant before the first match. Did you really think I wouldn’t figure out she was your daughter?

As the alarms went off, Livingstone’s men were escorting her to safety, but he ordered them to secure the weight. Sterling was waiting for her to take her home. Nate asks why Sterling didn’t tell him about her, back when they were friends.

Sterling: Because it was my fault that they left, and I knew it.

Olivia loudly protests that he did what he had to to protect her, but Nate has one more question:

Nate: Why’d you come to me?
Sterling: Because you’re the best thief I’ve ever seen, and I couldn’t risk anything less.

Nate gives Sterling a name, and asks for everything he has on it. In return he’ll make sure Eliot doesn’t know where he is. Back in Livingstone’s tower, the terrorists take the weight and pay millions in cash. Unfortunately for them, Nate put salt in the gas Parker was going to use to trick the pressure sensors, so when she injected it into the container, the weight was contaminated, and the terrorists are in for a big surprise.

Tropes stolen in this job:

  • A Million Is a Statistic: De-emphasized, but...HOW many people did blowing up an illegal nuclear manufacturing plant kill?
  • Artifact Title: In the final, Olivia, playing White, opens with 1. e4 - making it impossible for a Queen's Gambit (which begins 1. d4) to be played.
    • Nate does, however, use the Queen's Gambit Accepted in his semi-final.
  • Batman Gambit: Sterling accurately predicts not only the team's actions, but Livingstone's as well. When Livingstone directs his security team to stash Olivia and protect the weight, Sterling is waiting for her in the exact room they put her in.
  • Big Damn Heroes / The Cavalry: Eliot arrives just as it looks like Nate's going to get plugged by angry terrorists.
  • Chess Motifs: The entire episode is about a chess tournament.
  • The Chessmaster: Both Nate and Sterling. Fittingly, their game at the beginning ends in a draw.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Hardison packs a chute for Parker just in case she has to jump off the building. He even planned for the weighted shoes she was wearing to compensate against the wind.
  • Fridge Logic: The tournament screen shows Nate playing White in the final, although he ends up playing Black.
  • Honey Trap: Sophie neutralizes Nate's first opponent in the chess tournament this way.
  • Not So Different: Sterling, like Nate, would do anything to save his child.
  • Product Placement: Sterling drives a Lincoln Navigator, which at one point is bearing down Nate until the only thing that can be seen is the Lincoln logo.
  • Reading Lips: Sterling does this on Livingstone's clients while watching them through binoculars.
  • Smart People Play Chess: The episode opens with a chess match between Nate and Spencer that ends in a kings-only draw. Plus, the episode is centered on a chess tournament.
  • The Stakeout: Eliot and Sterling watching the buyers for the weight.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Sterling puts something in Eliot’s coffee to knock him out.
  • Training from Hell: Parker's DDR routine with weighted shoes drives her to tears.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Nate wonders why Sterling didn’t tell him about Olivia.
  • Who Shot JFK?: In a throwaway gag, Eliot and Sterling are heard arguing fiercely over the classic conspiracy theory.
    Sterling: If there was a second bullet, that means there was a second shooter. Otherwise, he fired a Carcano bolt-action twice in less than two seconds, which simply cannot be done. You do realize that, on a topic where nobody agrees on anything, you picked the one thing, the only thing which is not up for debate! Simply humanly impossible!
    Eliot: ...I did it.
  • Worthy Opponent: Sterling is the only rival Nate can't defeat... at both their work and at chess (when their game ends in a kings-only draw).
    • This runs in the family as Nate is unable to beat Sterling's daughter in the final chess match.