In this year’s holiday-themed episode the Leverage team set out to prevent a greedy former arms dealer (Gregg Henry) turned dirty CEO of a global toy conglomerate from releasing a dangerous toy he knows to be potentially harmful to children just in time for the Christmas rush. The initial plan of sending in Parker (Beth Riesgraf) to steal the safety report written by their client (Rodney Hicks), which would prove the toy’s dangers to youngsters and get it pulled from toy store shelves, comes up empty when they discover the CEO has already bought himself an alternative safety approval after doctoring the toy’s data.
With limited time before the toy hits stores Nate (Timothy Hutton) decides to create a craze for an alternative toy, the failed Whirlie-Glee-Glee, to overshadow the CEO’s hazardous new product. Despite Parker throwing a crimp into the plan by choosing to steal an alternate failed toy, the incredibly creepy “Baby Joy Rage,” the team moves forward with their backup plan.
Sophie (Gina Bellman) goes in as a competing toy rep while Nate, Elliot (Christian Kane), and Hardison (Aldis Hodge) work to try and get “the kids of America to love a toy they never wanted” by giving away free dolls at a toy market and getting a well-known preteen celeb (Nicole McCullough) to endorse the project without even realizing it. Sophie even calls in her acting students for a phone campaign to help further create artificial demand for the toy.
When their efforts still aren’t quite enough to make the CEO squirm, the team rebrands “Baby Joy Rage” as “Baby Feels-A-Lot” and markets it to parents and mommy bloggers as a developmental toy, a con which includes Hardison turning Eliot into a cheesy single father blogger. Eliot’s initial displeasure at his role softens after striking up a relationship with an attractive mommy blogger (Mia Riverton).
The episode has some great moments including Parker inexplicable’s (and cute as hell) choice to choose the creepier toy. The flashback of her childhood, which explains her reasoning for choosing “Baby Joy Rage,” is almost as much fun as Hardison’s initial shock and disbelief over her choice. With his attention of the CEO finally focused on besting the new toy, the team is able to implement their original plan to target and get the CEO’s new toy retested and declared unsafe.
The episode ends with a victory celebration that turns somewhat melancholy as, while sharing Christmas tales, Nate reveals an extremely personal tale of the trumpet he received for Christmas as a child, and played every day for ten years straight. Years later he chose to give his son the musical instrument on his 8th birthday, just days before Sam was diagnosed and went into the hospital. Although it ends the episode on a sad note, the scene is a powerful reminder of the pain the character still carries around and which brought him into the arms of his current family. It’s a nice touch going into next week’s Christmas-themed season finale, which may turn out to be the show’s series finale as well.