‘Leverage’ Season 5, Episode 3 Recap: The First Contact Job

In an episode directed by Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: The Next Generation), the episode starts out with a distraught design engineer, Oren Metz, attempting to crash a high level meeting where his former boss, James Kanack, is selling Metz’ designs as his own.

It seems Mr. Kanack has a love of fame and glory and will go to any lengths to do this including stealing the ideas and designs of others. The leverage team breaks into the headquarters of the business Kanack owns and attempts to recover the original designs which should have a digital watermark on them proving that they belong to Metz. Unfortunately the files have been wiped clean leaving the team with no choice but to find another way to get to Kanack.

The team is reviewing the files that Harbison and Parker stole from the server room when they come across hundreds of hours of digital audio files containing nothing but static. Eliot recognizes it as military static from military satellites. Scanning the visual on the server room Nate discovers that Kanack has his computers scanning for radio signals from deep space, looking for a message from an alien civilization. It’s at this point that the team decides to steal a close encounter and send Kanack the message he has waited to hear.

Eliot and Harbison work to bounce a message off of the moon and it is quickly received by Kanack who immediately attempts to lock down the only other person who got the signal. He sends his security team to kidnap the other person who turns out to be Eliot using the cover name of Willie Riker (Episode director Jonathan Frakes played Commander William Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation). Willie is scared that “they” are coming to get him and keeps taking about his buddy Lenny who was taken by the aliens (Lenny being a play on Leonard Nimoy who played Spock in Star Trek). Willie agrees to help Kanack verify the signal with the agreement that they will share credit. Kanack plans to cut Willie out completely.

Harbison and Parker show up as Men in Black asking questions about the satellite transmissions and claim that they want to verify that there is nothing in the transmissions that would compromise national security. Because they lack a warrant they are turned away.

After Willie isolates and cleans up the message he tells Kanack that they need a code breaker and suggests a professor he met on the Internet. Enter Sophie who deciphers that the code is mathematical and part of Pi. The message sender, she says, wants the missing sequence returned to them.

Kanack is dismayed that Willie can’t simply send the code back and Willie informs him that he needs a satellite to pull of sending a message. Kanack instructs his attorney to find a satellite dealer immediately.
The dealer agrees to meet with Kanack and in walks Nate. He explains that getting a satellite up immediately is impossible but agrees to sell Kanack 500 hours on the satellite owned by his “boss” for a million dollars under the table. Kanack agrees and orders the money to be immediately transferred. Kanack gives the information to Willie with instructions to send the message over and over.

Back at Leverage headquarters, Nate and Sophie meet with Metz and Nate gives him a check for the million he stole from Kanack. Metz refuses the money and Nate finally understands that for Metz it isn’t about the money. It’s about his reputation and being discredited to the point that he can no longer find work in his field. Metz thanks them for trying and walks away without the money. Nate decides to alter the plans for the end of the con to help Metz get his reputation back.

Another message is received by Kanack from deep space and this time when Sophie decipher it there is a hint at aliens visiting Kanack. Armed with more than one signal and the codes, Kanack orders everyone put on ice and has his attorney alert the media. A press conference is staged for the next day as Kanack was about to announce the deal with the aeronautical firm that was seen at the beginning of the show. Instead, Kanack plans to announce his First Contact information which will make him the most famous scientist in history.

In the process of keeping everyone quiet, Kanack has his security people attempt to kidnap Sophie which Nate prevents. He also has security try to put Willie away and Eliot puts a stop to that. With Parker helping, Eliot has the idea to get rid of everyone and leave their boots sitting around as though they were sucked out of them.

Kanack sees the boots and can find none of his people and begins to panic. It doesn’t take long for the team to put into play the rest of the plan, including having Kanack see Sophie “taken” by the Aliens and Willie killed by them. The lights that simulate alien activity are set to randomly go off all night.

At the press conference the next morning Kanack begins to show that he has made contact with the aliens when in walks a very much alive Eliot to stand in the back of the group. Kanack makes a complete unhinged fool of himself and most of the reporters begin leaving. Nate and his team walk in with Metz and introduce him to the as the real designer of the engine that the aerospace firm is interested in buying. They leave together and it is later revealed that Nate used the million that Metz refused to set up a design grant that is going to Metz.

This was one of the more fun episodes and fans of the show can see that the team is well settled in Portland without ever having lost their stride.

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