The scene starts in McRorys Bar where Hardison, Sophie and Eliot are arguing during closing hours. Nate, who was brought in by Parker, asks what's going on. Sophie plays a recording of a stolen artifact called the Dagger of Aqu'abi, which was stolen from the Boston Museum of Art and Antiquities five years ago, and has recently been put for display at the same gallery. However, the reason of their argument was because they each claim they have stolen it. Unsure who's telling the truth, Sophie suggests that each of them tells their side of the story; Nate reluctantly agrees.
In her story, Sophie first poses as the Duchess of Barrington-Highsworth, a patron of the arts who donated artworks to gain admission to the gallery. She then introduces the current custodian of the dagger, Edgar Gladstorn, who flirts with her, and the head of the museum security, Coswell, who she tells everyone to be careful of since he's quite skilled. Her plan is to cause a commotion by spiking a drink and asks a waitress to give it to the Zimbabwe's art minister, Robert Bioko, who's allergic to shrimp. While she waits for it to happen, she meets with a surgeon, Dr. Wes Abernathy and has a little chat. Just as Bioko's allergic reaction kicks in and Abernathy deals with him, Sophie secretly slips into the storage room and changes her dress and identity to Dr. Karen Ipcress, who's worked in the restoration department for the past 4 months.
Just as she pretends to work, Coswell comes down and questions her since she doesn't do late nights. As Coswell suspects her and the Duchess of being the same, he leaves the place. Worried that her cover's blown, Sophie quickly switches the shipping details on the dagger's crate so it will be delivered to one of her safe-houses in London, before she makes her escape. Despite her plan being perfect as she claims, she didn't get the dagger in London.
Eliot decides to tell his side of the story.
Eliot is doing what he normally does - beating the crap out of some mooks - when he gets a call from a man named Gutman. Gutman is rather annoyed that Eliot never retrieved the sapphire monkey from North Korea, so he offers him a trade: If Eliot manages to retrieve the dagger, then Gutman will consider the debt repaid. Otherwise he promises to keep sending men after him until one of them gets lucky. So on the night in question, Eliot manages to steal the real Doctor Abernathy's identity and get into the party. He bumps into Sophie, but instead of her normal British accent, she has a Cockney accent.
Sophie is indignantly annoyed, and retells her story so that "Dr. Abernathy" has a hillbilly accent. Eliot tells her that she already told her story and gets back to it.
Skip to the part where Bioko is choking: Sophie urges Eliot to save him, and Eliot hesitantly obliges. Eliot would have performed an impromptu tracheotomy with a pocketknife handed to him by one of the waitstaff, but the minister has some pills that miraculously heal him. Eliot uses him as an excuse to get further inside the museum - specifically, he leaves the minister at the first-aid station. After that, he sneaks into the basement, knocks out a security guard and steals his uniform. He's confronted by Coswell, bluffs his way past, and ends up working with the crew doing the shipping. He disguises himself appropriately and swaps the shipment so he could retrieve it.
Sophie blames Eliot for ruining her con, but Eliot claims the moment he opened the crate, he found a mug instead. In the end, Gutman's heat on him was off as Gutman was arrested a couple of weeks later for something. Just then Hardison laughs as it's his turn to tell his side of the story. Hardison's motive for stealing the dagger was because the museum had installed the Tanuki security system from Japan, and anyone who'd manage to hack it and show proof that they'd stolen something would be legendary.
Hardison enters the museum disguised as Minister Robert Bioko, having hacked the invite list and grabbed the identity of a random guest. As he works on the system, he decides to have some fun; he drinks some wine, flirts with some ladies, and spies on Eliot and Sophie getting fresh with each other. Once a power surge occurs (signalling that the system's reset), he fakes a choking fit as a distraction. Gladstone checks on him as Hardison says he needs to go to the first-aid room, but Sophie calls attention to his allergy. This Sophie is using a Scottish accent, and the present Sophie is pissed.
As Hardison is confused at his fake identity's allergy, Eliot plays the overenthusiastic doctor, who nearly performs the tracheotomy with an enormous knife. Hardison quickly pretends his breath mints are anti-allergy pills. Eliot gets him to the first-aid room, but Hardison adds that Eliot acts like a slasher killer, holding a knife and telling him not to leave as he exits. Once Eliot leaves, Hardison gets into a nearby computer and hacks the system to make sure that the dagger stays in the museum instead of leaving it. He disguises himself as a security guard and tries to hack the door when Coswell shows up. Suddenly, the guard that Eliot took down, now in his skivvies, exits the janitor's room and Coswell checks on him. With no other choice, Hardison pushes both men back inside, steals Coswell's radio and locks the door. When he manages to enter the Shipping department, he opens one of the vaults and holds the dagger...
Hardison laughs at them, claiming that he beat both Sophie and Eliot. He says that nothing else matters, and Nate picks up on that and asks him why he says that. Hardison eventually admits that when he opened the vault, nothing was inside. Nate says that neither Hardison, Sophie or Eliot has it... and turns to Parker, who indignantly points out that, you know, "I'm a thief".
Parker is actually the waitress, though she's doing a horrible job. She ignores Hardison, who's hording big amounts of hors 'doerves into his pockets, then runs into Sophie, who is just speaking gibberish.
Present Sophie: I hate you all...
Coswell points out that she needs to do her job better, and asks for her name—which she can't give him, since she "lost" her name tag. Once she realizes someone hacked into the security system, the story about Hardison choking is much the same, except for Sophie's gibberish.
Parker's version of Hardison: Yes, yes, I'm allergic to shrimp!
Parker: Oooh! You said "shrimp"! That didn't sound like shrimp.
Parker's the one who gives the huge knife to Eliot, albeit a bit gleefully. She manages to sneak into the storage room but the door is closed, so she decides to use the air duct to enter the shipping department. She hides under the table, and when Coswell accidentally knocks a mug off of it, she catches it so it can't break. Once they leave, she places the mug in the box, then takes the dagger out of the vault, does a bit of a victory dance and leaves through the air ducts. Unfortunately, on the way through the ducts, she realizes that her bag got switched with Sophie's. Coswell suddenly appears and they have a short fight, but the dagger falls from Parker's grip, down the duct...
Everyone keeps arguing, believing that somebody lied. Parker suddenly realizes Nate's expression and immediately questions him if he knows something. Nate then simply asks the others if they knew that the insurance company insuring the museum at the time of the theft was his old company, IYS. Nate finally tells them what happened to the dagger...
Nate's story starts with him speaking to Coswell. Everyone else remembers Coswell as a tough, wary, skilled security expert, but he's actually a shy, bumbling guy who's pretty sweet. Nate chats with him, as he's there to investigate the recent thefts from the museum. He tells Coswell that IYS most likely will not insure the dagger. Coswell never actually caught on to Sophie's cons, he just thought she was pretty and wanted to ask her out. In reality, the drink Sophie spiked found its way to Eliot, not Hardison, and it was the glass of wine that he accidentally spilled on her due to tasting the shrimp in it. Coswell meets "Dr. Ipcress" but can't work up his courage to talk to her, and leaves. He tells the guards to find her, but while the team wrongly remembered it as him knowing she was a fake, in reality, he wanted to give her some roses at it's her last day working. (He ends up giving them to Nate.) He even asks Eliot but fails to notice that he's a fake guard. He then meets Hardison, disguised as a worker, and sobs about how he missed his chance to confess his love to Ipcress. He notices the guard Eliot mugged, but gets pushed inside by Hardison. Inside the storage room, he tells the guard that he'll get them out. He opens Parker's bag, filled with rappelling rope, assumes it's the janitor's stuff and uses it to climb inside the air vent. He bumps into Parker, who punches him in the face. The dagger drops down the shaft... and falls out of a ceiling vent, directly into Nate's hand.
Everyone is pretty shocked at that story, but Sophie and Eliot pick up on the biggest problem: Nate had it, but the dagger was still reported stolen. Ah, Nate says, but it was stolen.
Back at the museum gallery, Gladstone is yelling at Coswell for screwing up and letting Parker get away, saying it's his worst loss ever. Nate walks in with the dagger... and snaps it in half. It's a fake. Nate explains that he's here to figure out why Gladstone has had so many expensive items stolen that IYS had insured. He realizes that Gladstone was selling the originals on the black market, while putting the fakes on display and staging a public theft to get the insurance using the double-dipping scam. Gladstone begs him not to tell anyone or he'll be in ruins. Nate then tells him that he's small potatoes; he came to the museum to hunt down a dealer capable of moving so many high-value items. Gladstone gets off with refunding the insurance money paid him by IYS - along with the dagger, for Nate to use as bait to arrest the dealer. So as of that moment, the Dagger of Aqu'abi has officially been stolen.
The team is a bit sad that after all they did, none of them got it. Sophie asks about the dealer, and we get a flashback: the dealer Gladstone used was Gutman, who Nate had arrested. Eliot's quite surprised. Hardison's depressed that they all did so much work for nothing, but Nate reminds them that it's easy to forget why they stopped working solo and now work as a team, and restarts the recording; It's showing an interview with a man called Nigel Hayton, the C.E.O. of Baron Oil, an oil company who spilled tons of oil over American waters. Hayton is a quintessential bastard, down to his posh accent, reassuring the public that he cares, as does his company - and he's showcasing his collection of art and antiquities as a means of sharing his fortune with "the little people"... and the star attraction is none other than the Dagger of Aqu'abi.
The team leaves the bar in a hurry claiming to get it first, leaving Nate behind. Nate eventually follows after as the episode ends.
Tropes stolen in this job:
- Already Met Everyone: Except for Nate.
- Call-Back: In season one's "The Stork Job," Parker points out traits and habits of an orphan/foster child who is used to being shuffled from place to place with little more than the clothes on his back. These include hoarding food. Later in the same episode, Hardison reveals to Parker that he grew up in the foster care system. In this episode, when Parker recounts her side of the events, she describes Hardison, who said earlier that he was still living with his foster mom at the time, as hoarding the hors d'oeuvres.
- An alert viewer would recall that Dr Wes Abernathy was the alias Eliot used in The Jailhouse Job, hinting that the doctor Sophie bumps into is actually Eliot before we get to his part of the story.
- A blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, but everyone sees the object Coswell was carrying down the stairs as a gun — except for Eliot. Even though he misread Coswell as a dangerous, competent head of security, he would never mistake a box of roses for a weapon.
- Gambit Pileup: Sophie, Eliot, Hardison, and Parker all had well-thought-out plans for stealing the Dagger of Aqu'Abi, and the episode suggests that any of them would have been successful...except that they all implemented them simultaneously, unaware of the others, and interfered with each other.
- MacGuffin: The Dagger of Aqu'Abi has absolutely no significance other than as a valuable item that four thieves would want to steal and that Nate's company would insure. (In fact, neither Eliot nor Hardison cared about the dagger itself at all—Eliot is stealing it for someone else to get him off his back, and Hardison just wanted to prove he beat the security system protecting it.)
- Mistaken for Badass: Coswell, head of security. Everyone thought he was a stone-cold competent badass able to match their every move, when in actual fact he was just a shy, bumbling sweetheart who was lovestruck for Sophie's second persona, Dr. Ipcress.
- Mugged for Disguise: Eliot does it twice, first holding up the actual Dr. Abernathy for his clothes and gala invitation, then later tackling a guard to steal his uniform.
- No MacGuffin, No Winner: As far as the four thieves are concerned, but then it turned out that the owner was trying to defraud the insurance company with a fake that he was going to declare stole. Their actions enabled Nate to nail him for it.
- "Rashomon"-Style: The story of the theft unfolds as each of the team tells their version of events.
- Retroactive Recognition: A rare in-universe example. Since they all had brief encounters with each other, none of the crew remembered that they all met at the gallery. When each crew member tells their version another actor replaces the others until they have been identified in the story. Since Sophie goes first, another actor doesn't replace her.
- Running Gag: Sophie's accent; each version has her sounding more ridiculous than the previous. (Except Nate's)
- Spanner in the Works: Each character does this for each other character at least once, as each of the four would have succeeded if not for the actions of everyone else.
- Tampering with Food and Drink: Sophie spikes a glass of champagne and sends it to "Minister Bioko" intending to trigger his allergy to shrimp and create a diversion. Subsequent flashbacks show that the glass was unwittingly intercepted by Eliot, who in Nate's version of events spits it out as soon as he tastes it because it "tastes funny." It also turns out it wouldn't have mattered anyway, because "Minister Bioko" was actually Hardison impersonating him, and he only started coughing so he could have an excuse to leave the party.
- Unreliable Narrator: All over the place! Each one is more unreliable than the last it seems, except for Nate...we think. Perhaps the best part is that each of the Team - when they were uncertain which part others played - perceived their future teammates as magnificent; Eliot's "Dr. Wes Abernathy"(played by soap-opera heartthrob Riley Smith) was soft-spoken and charming even to Sophie's trained eye - despite him shamelessly flirting with her (humorously, after she hears him depicting her accent as godawful Cockney, Sophie demands the chance to revise her story in order to frame him as a beer-swilling hick). Hardison's "Minister Robert Bioko" (played by the powerfully built multi-athlete Juan Canopii) was intimidating even to Eliot (and was sarcastically thanking him for smuggling him past security!). And the socially-awkward Parker blended in so well that she was invisible to all of them save Nate.
- Word of God is; "Nate is still an unreliable narrator, although about 80% accurate. He's not making up the crush, or the crime plot, or how they interfered with each other." The remainder is most likely him being annoyed at Sophie believing that Coswell, "...could be even smarter than Nate." Instead, no-one except he, Nathan Ford, knew exactly what was going down the entire time — but failed to finger any of the four at the time! He just pieced together the four stories after hearing them to figure out who did what when.
- Unrequited Love: Coswell for Sophie.