At last! “Leverage,” the TNT series that films on location in and around Portland, actually sets an episode here! Well, sort of.
Sunday night’s “The Van Gogh Job,” was an unusual outing, telling a flashback tale set during the World War II years with understated emotion.
And, for particular local interest, much of the story revolved around a roller-skating rink in “Willamette City,” a community supposedly in Oregon.
We’re still waiting for an episode that brings Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton) and his team into action in Portland, but this will do for now.
The episode featured a guest star turn by Danny Glover, playing older than his years, as Charlie Lawson, an octogenarian World War II veteran who may hold the secret to a lost painting by Van Gogh. Glover was appealing as always, even if his role pretty much consisted of him lying in a hospital bed, recuperating from a heart attack and telling the story of his younger days.
The gang flies out to Lawson’s hometown of “Willamette City” to try and unravel and whereabouts of the Van Gogh painting confiscated by the Nazis and now considered “the white whale of art theft recovery.”
In the 1940s-set flashbacks, the “Leverage” team assumes the roles of the characters in the story. Hardison (Aldis Hodge) plays the young Lawson, and Parker (Beth Riesgraf) is Dorothy, the daughter of a lumber baron who owns half the town. These two meet at the roller rink, and fall in love.
But in the 1940s, as Charlie recalls, an African American man making overtures to a white woman was dangerous. Before too long, the young Lawson is confronted by the town sheriff (Hutton), who stops Lawson from getting beat up or worse. Lawson enlists in the Army, as he recalls that there weren’t a lot of choices for a black man in those days.
In the World War II scenes, Eliot (Christian Kane) turns up, amid battle (where else would Eliot be, after all?) Lawson is a hero, but because he’s black, he doesn’t get the credit for taking out a sniper shooting at his comrades. He finds a note on the dead German soldier, reads it (Lawson is quite the multilinguist) and learns about the stolen Van Gogh painting, which Lawson thinks will provide the money he needs to start life with Dorothy back in the USA.
Back in Willamette City, Sophie (Gina Bellman) turns up, playing the Wurlitzer organ at the roller rink. Once Charlie returns, he’s reunited with Dorothy, and she agrees to run off with him. But Dorothy’s dad doesn’t approve, and he has thugs looking for Lawson.
After much running around, Charlie and Dorothy meet in the woods. She loves him, but knows that if they leave together her father will hunt them down and hurt Lawson, and she can’t let that happen. They kiss goodbye, Charlie tells Dorothy to keep the painting safe for him, and he jumps a train and heads out of her life.
In the present, Parker is getting teary-eyed listening to Lawson tell the story. He says he had a remarkable life and came back to town to see Dorothy again — but he was just a couple of years too late.
“Where do you think the painting is now?” Parker asks. Lawson wonders if it matters.
Nate abruptly announces he knows where the painting is. He’s psychic that way, apparently. Turns out the canvas was rolled up and stashed in the one of the pipes from the Wurlitzer organ from the roller rink. Dorothy kept the painting safe, as she promised, in case Lawson came back. The painting is now headed to the Boston Museum of Art. And Sophie wonders if this was the real story of what all happened. Nate says, probably not, but “It’s the best story.” Meanwhile, Charlie looks at Parker and Hardison, and he advises, “Don’t waste time.”
Thoughts: Even if Glover didn’t get much of a chance to stretch his acting muscles, it was refreshing to see Aldis Hodge have an opportunity to play a character so different from the wisecracking Hardison. He was serious, touching and had a nice sense of restrained romanticism. It was equally nice to see Riesgraf, whose Parker is a wonderfully hard-to-pin-down, prickly character, connect so gracefully with Hodge in her scenes as Dorothy. Their love was utterly believable. Now, as for Hardison and Parker, well, it definitely felt as if things were warming up between them as well.
Now, time for questions, locations experts. What was that roller rink? Was the center of Willamette City St. Helens? It looked a bit like it to me, but I don’t know for sure. Any other tips on what was what? Or thoughts about “The Van Gogh Job”? Leave any and all comments below.