Recap / Leverage S 05 E 01 The Very Big Bird Job

The Leverage team is spread around the world taking some well deserved time off, when they get a call bringing them to Portland. Hardison has gotten them a new place to lay low while federal agents skulk outside Nate's apartment in Boston. He even has a client!

Hardison begins briefing the team about their mark, Scott Romer, the owner of a large cargo airline. One of the airline's planes crashed, resulting in the death of the pilots. The courts have ruled it an accident, but the widow claims Romer's penny-pinching led to negligence in the construction of the plane. Nate agrees to take the case. As the widow leaves, Eliot notices characters in a dark SUV watching her. He follows, interrupting what the woman assumes is an attempted car-jacking. Eliot is less certain.

Nate begins tailing Romer at the Evergreen International Aviation & Space Museum. He introduces himself as an executive from another transport service, while Sophie tries to get into the airline's office building. Nate discovers that Romer is an aviation history buff, and is here to see them run the engines of their star exhibit, the Spruce Goose.

Parker breaks into the server room and steals some files, while Sophie has gotten herself invited into a meeting. They discover that Romer is planning on merging his company with a passenger airline. If the plan goes through, thousands of people will be riding on his faulty planes.

Romer continues showing Nate around the Goose. He sees himself as a kind kindred spirit to Howard Hughes. Nate brings up the recent suite prompting a rant from Romer . Eventually he expresses the wish to fly the Spruce Goose just once. Nate asks Romer if he would like to own the Spruce Goose. The mark is obviously intrigued.

Nate explains he's part of a consortium to buy the plane from the museum. Romer has a few conditions of his own, one of which is he, and he alone, can fly it. Nate agrees to the terms, and he and Romer shake hands. Back at Leverage headquarters, he tells the team that Romer is relying on the company to protect him so they need to strip that away. They also need to keep him away from the meeting so the merger can't go through.

Eliot finds out the goons are looking for a video file that proves the airline was paying of safety inspectors. The video was originally filmed by the now dead pilot, and the company believes that the pilot's family now possesses the file.

Nate and Romer meet in a warehouse, where he introduces Hardison as another buyer. But Romer brought some muscle, which prompts Sophie to come in and start threatening everyone in an Arabic accent. Hardison pulls a gun and herds them out and into Romer's car. Hardison drives them away, but they don't get far before Romer spots a bomb. They all jump out and run, just seconds before the bomb blows. In the confusion, Romer grabs the gun and shoots Hardison. Romer wants to call to police, but Nate tells him it's not a good idea: not only has he just killed a man, he's now got ties to terrorism. Romer wants to call his security head, but Nate causes him to suspect that the security head was in on it too.

Romer demands to know what the "terrorists" wanted with the Spruce Goose, and Nate tells him they wanted to ship it overseas and take it apart. Romer is confused by this and tells Nate to drive to the museum so they can look at the plans for the plane.

Eliot and Hardison (unscathed, thanks to the blanks in the gun) emerge from behind a nearby car, remarking that Nate's ability to screw with people's heads is kind of cool when it's not being done to them. Hardison tells Eliot the incriminating video evidence came from a nanny-cam type camera. Eliot realizes where the recording is: it's in the daughter's teddy bear, the one her father gave her before he died. Unfortunately, the security goons figure it out at the same time, and they're closer.

One of the thugs grabs the bear from the girl and drives off. Parker manages to grab on to the car and tag along.

At the museum Nate and Romer look over the plans, noting that they are heavily redacted. They "discover" that it carries a device which wraps the plane in an EM field. This would destroy the aluminum aircraft of the time, but the "spruce" in the Spruce Goose is actually a light composite material not dissimilar from those used in modern drone aircraft. Romer then jumps to the conclusion the team wished him to - that the Spruce Goose is actually a stealth bomber.

Nate asks if they can call the police now, but Romer wants to keep this quiet, saying this technology will be worth a fortune. Nate congratulates Hardison on his doctored plans. Things start to go off the rails when Romer's security shows up looking for him. Sophie and Hardison show up in their guise as terrorists to drive Romer and Nate towards the plan. Eliot heads off the security guys and demands the return of the teddy bear.

Romer takes Nate into the plane and gets the idea to escape by flying it out of the museum. Nate protests, but Romer is set on it. He taxis out and takes off. Outside the plane, Sophie notes that Hardison is looking very pleased with his flight simulation setup. There are several flashbacks showing the team setting up mechanics to perfectly simulate take-off in the plane's cockpit.

When the time is right, Hardison pushes a Big Red Button labeled "Crash" that simulates power failure in all engines. As Romer begins to panic, Nate knocks him out.

In the morning Romer wakes up surrounded by the flaming wreckage of what he thinks is the Spruce Goose. He sees on his phone a story about the Spruce Goose being stolen and terrorists suspected and crashed. He tells him the thing in the news is him. The actual news story is about the pilot's crash and death. The security guys tells him not to say anything, but Romer blurts out

"I killed a man! The plane, the's all my fault!"

The camera pans slowly over to the very-interested FBI agents standing besides Romer's security guy.

Later Nate presents the widow with her settlement, and tells her no one will ever take Romer seriously again, amply demonstrated by cutting to Romer trying to tell the FBI how he stole the Spruce Goose to escape Iranians who were trying to kill him over 70-year-old stealth technology.

Later Nate and Hardison discuss something they are planning, which they are keeping from the others.

Tropes stolen in this job:

  • Batman Gambit: The whole con relies on Roemer's admiration of and desire to emulate Howard Hughes being so strong that, when put into the right situation, he will of his own volition decide to fly off in the Spruce Goose.
  • Big Red Button: On Hardison's computer running the simulation of the plane flying, it has one of these labeled "CRASH".
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: The team manages to convince Roemer that Hughes developed stealth technology in The '40s. It's all part of the con, but it's still a pretty cool idea - and Duramold is the ancestor of what is used in modern drones.
  • Cool Plane: The Spruce Goose. Bonus points for it being a real plane.
  • External Combustion: The team plants a bomb in Roemer's car to help sell the con and panic him into rash decisions.
  • Fauxtastic Voyage: The team are able to convince Roemer that he has stolen - and crashed - the Spruce Goose.
  • Let Me Get This Straight...: The very end as Romer explains to the FBI what happened, clearly thinking he's getting his story across when their expressions make it clear they're not buying any of this.
    FBI Agent: So your story is you didn't flee the country because of embezzlement and fraud, you fled because you thought terrorists were trying to kill you for secret stealth technology invented by Howard Hughes?
    Romer: Yes.
    FBI Agent: But you didn't report that to the FBI because you believed you stole the world's largest airplane out of a museum, which you had crashed?
    Romer: Now you got it!
  • Nice Hat: Invoked and discussed with Romer's.
  • Product Placement: The Evergreen International Aviation & Space Museum is prominently shown. The building with a 747 on the roof is actually an indoor water park.
  • Tranquil Fury: Hardison realizes when Roemer makes a joke about the men who died and all he suffers is a fine, it will set Nate off into this territory and begs him to not do a con.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Roemer thinks he's an adventurer stumbling on Hughes' secret and racing to save the Spruce Goose from terrorists, unaware it's all one big con.
  • You Have to Believe Me: Roemer tries this with the FBI to convince him of his story of crashing the Spruce Goose. Naturally, the fact the plane is still intact ruins the entire attempt.