Wednesday, June 17, 2009

5.6 The Road Less Travelled

Summary and Spoilers

Carlton Wood and Harry Fielding, the two deceitful intellectual property thieves that were conned in the season 5 episode New Recruits, have been spending the last few months carefully tracking and researching Mickey and his team. They have assembled a team of their own; people who have been conned by Mickey and Co. Now it is their turn for some payback.

Wood and Fielding have determined that the Convincer – the part where the con allows the mark to win a bit to build up confidence – is the weakest link in the chain. They’re going to dangle a huge reward, then walk away with the Convincer – a one million dollar sum. But Fielding’s team has a couple of weak links as well: one of them is that they are using Alfie, a dim-witted upperclass snob, to be the front man.


We basically know that Mickey’s team is going to triumph every time (although that formula has been broken before in other episodes, and full credit for that). But anyway, assuming that they are going to get the upper hand this time, I realized very early on that the only way they could do that is if Alfie was actually a sophisticated con man who was working for/with Mickey. So they got me…as Alfie was the one person who wasn’t working with Mickey!

A romance seems to be growing between Mickey and Emma. They were just about to kiss – for real this time – when they were interrupted by Ash and Sean.

Hustle Quotes

Alfie (the mark): Survival of the fittest. Never mind, eh pops. Maybe next time.
Albert: You can count on it.

Emma: Have you ever been married?
Mickey: Yes, once.
Emma: And?
Mickey: And…now I’m not.
Emma: Touchy subject.
Mickey: No, no. No, she cheated on me.
Emma: Sorry. So you split up.
Mickey: Yeah, had to really. I beat the guy half to death with a baseball bat and got sent to prison for three years.
Emma: You beat someone with a baseball bat?
Mickey: Why so surprised?
Emma: Um, because it’s quite out of character.
Mickey: [laughs] What, you’d expect me to con him to death?

Mickey: Oh, I’m expecting two colleagues to join us. Please have them shown through when they arrive.
Accounts Manager: Does it really take four of you?
Mickey: I have twelve officers at my disposal, Mr. Glencross. If I choose to, I will invite all of them.
Accounts Manager: Sorry, I didn’t mean -
Mickey: I’m perfectly well aware of what you meant: that as beaurocrats, we are somehow wasteful with resources, but if we were to find you’d underpaid your taxes, I think reclaiming that money and the resulting fines would be an excellent use of resources. Don’t you?

Monday, June 15, 2009

5.5 Politics

Summary and Spoilers

It was a successful scam – in fact, it was all too easy, and the team has gotten no satisfaction out of conning people that are so dense. They begin to dismantle the fake solicitors’ office when a legitimate client bursts in. He needs an injunction straightaway to stop the center he runs for troubled kids from being torn down. It would be easy enough to get rid of this guy, but Mickey sees the opportunity to help this man and punish the MP who is fast-tracking the demolition of historically important sites.

Sean goes inside to work in the office of the MP, Rona Christie; Albert plays the role of billionaire property developer J. J. Kayne; Emma infiltrates Kayne’s office and arranges a time when Christie can meet with Kayne (Albert) and his young trophy wife (Emma). All goes well; Christie takes the bait and the first part of the scam works. Mickey and Emma take a break that evening to have a romantic dinner. Things heat up between them, and they kiss at the table – and they are seen by Christie, who is dining in the same restaurant. But it’s all a way to get Christie to reveal how she launders funds. When she does, the team records her – and blackmails her into reversing the planned demolition of the centre.


Having read Bill Bryson’s book Notes From a Small Island, I share his disgust with the way the many historical landmarks in England have been torn down and replaced with monstrosities. This added a little personal connection to the team’s plan to nail the politician who was facilitating this crime against culture, history, and architecture.

A small but important side story in this episode involves Sean confronting Mickey about his intentions toward Emma. Sean is trying to protect her. Mickey can‘t help but smile as Sean gets more and more wound up, but he also assures Sean that he will always be honorable to Emma. Of course, this is setting Sean (and the audience) up for a big con later.

Hustle Quotes

Ash: Lack of discipline. These kids have never done a decent days work in their lives. Hard, manual labor, that’s what they need.
Emma: Is that what you did when they were their age, Ash?
Ash: Not a stroke, and look how I turned out.

Sean: Get this: I’ve just done a 12 hour day at work, yeah? What’s she go and do? She’s given me homework. Work to do at home after work.
Eddie: Alright, so, uh, difficulties with the old work/life balance then, eh?

Rona Christie: You bugged my office.
Sean: Well…I told you I was pro-active.

Monday, June 8, 2009

5.4 Diamond Seeker

Summary and Spoilers

The team finds themselves mistakenly gifted with a priceless diamond, accidentally given to them by Frank, their swindler friend. When Frank and his son are beaten mercilessly by the man who hired them to steal that diamond, Mickey decides to punish the man behind the brutality. This presents a difficult challenge, as the mark is Mr. Baxter, a 220 IQ ‘love diamond’ lover and recluse who never leaves his house. Baxter has hired a psycho private eye slash killer to track down the necklace. Mickey decides the plan is to convince Baxter that they no longer have the necklace; the best way to accomplish that is to sell it to Hauptmann, a rival collector. Meanwhile, Emma is purposely sacrificed and has to confront Baxter alone and convince him that the necklace was stolen by Hauptmann’s ‘tracer’. Inside Baxter’s secure vault, and surrounded by his treasured jewelry, her plan appears to be working until she accidentally mentions the location of Hauptmann, something that she should not know. Now Baxter knows that she is lying. Soon, the whole team is in the vault. Mickey agrees to hand over the necklace, but asks a favor – can he have Baxter’s replica of the necklace to sell to Hauptmann? Baxter agrees, but is not aware that Emma has switched the necklaces already. So when Baxter hands over the replica, he is actually giving away the real one. The team sells the genuine necklace to Hauptmann and split the big bag of money with Frank.


There’s nothing lighthearted about this episode. It’s a welcome change of pace. The team is in real danger of getting beaten or worse. Emma in particular is in real peril – sent in to convince Baxter that the diamond is gone. Sean is extremely angry that Mickey is putting her at risk.

I wonder why Frank the Fence didn’t just call Mickey up and ask him to give the diamond back before he got beaten up. I assume that option wasn’t available, yet it would have been beneficial to all parties.

There’s another huge plot hole, too. How did Mickey know that Baxter would allow Emma into the vault? If he hadn’t, Emma could not have switched the necklaces, and the whole thing falls apart. It is rather irrational for Baxter to allow Emma (and later, an entire team of grifters) into his vault, where the items of value are no longer secure.

Hustle Quotes

Cyclops: Much as I’d like to help you, you being an elder statesman and all, bearing in mind those two very powerful objections, there’s nothing this side of 200 quid that could convince me to tell you where his hotel is.
Albert: Make it 150, and I’ll pick up the lunch tab.
Cyclops: I want pudding.
Albert: Naturally.
Cyclops: Strand Hotel, third floor, superior double.

"…and he never goes out. He’s like that mad bloke, Howard Hughes – I mean, everything comes to him: food, books, antiques. I mean, how can you grift someone that doesn’t leave the house?"
- Sean

Sunday, June 7, 2009

5.3 Lest Ye Be Judged

Summary and Spoilers

Albert has used his bottomless well of charm to make his prison sentence profitable and, well, pleasant. When he is not hustling inmates, he is purposely losing chess matches to the prison governor (who also happens to chair the parole hearings). But two days before his planned release, his governor friend has a stroke and is replaced with a hard-line woman. She has no sympathy for Albert, especially since she has just discovered evidence of his in-prison gambling. She tells him he is an old man whose talents are well behind him, and he should expect to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Expecting Albert to be out shortly, Mickey plans a special con for Albert. They will con an old-school high court judge. How? Well, obnoxious Justice Kent presided over a robbery case where the thieves had stolen 30 million in gold. Kent gave a lenient sentence to one of the thieves in exchange, Mickey believes, for getting some of the gold. But his informer was killed in prison before Kent could find out the location. Now both thieves are dead, and Mickey’s plan is to resurrect one and make Kent believe he can lead him to the gold – for a fee, of course.

There’s an early complication; Ash has stood before Kent, so he has to work behind the scenes. Mickey asks Ash to keep Sean with him, to give him pointers, stating that Sean is not ready for a mark like this. Ash immediately gets suspicious that Mickey just wants to work alone with Emma; Mickey says he is not getting involved. Ash takes the opportunity to ‘teach’ (aka hustle) Sean while they work together to hustle a roulette wheel gambler.

Albert tries to clean up his act by leading a prayer group and going to choir practice, but the governor isn’t buying it. She finds fresh evidence of gambling behind a peeling poster in Albert’s cell, and then finds a wad of cash hidden inside Albert’s miniature craft house. Things are looking bad, but things are rarely as they seem on Hustle. Behind the scenes, Ash and Sean have been compromising the psychologist parole board member, whose love of the roulette wheel leads him to get caught cheating. The second board member is the high court justice. And the third board member, the supposedly un-connable governor, has been conned by Albert.

By unanimous vote, Albert is released from prison, where he joins the rest of the team for a ride home in style in a stretch limousine.


This new team is growing on me. They are quite comfortable, and I like the characters that Emma and Sean are playing. It’s probably good to get some younger, great looking people into the cast.

Hustle Quotes

Ash: Say hello to my lucky phone.
The Mark: Is that one of those mobiles?
Ash: What, the ones with the laser scanner inside, reads the spin of the ball with a microcomputer, does the sums for ya - might be.
The Mark: I’ve read about those -
Ash: Keep your voice down. Don’t look at my arm, look straight ahead. Understand?
The Mark: Where’d you get it from?
Ash: Don’t ask me that, ask me how much I made last week.
The Mark: How much –
Ash: 82 thousand pounds! Now, ask me if I’m happy.
The Mark: Are you happy?
Ash: No. Do you want to know why? Course you do, it’s an intriguing tale. The casino’s onto me. Start getting funny looks from the security people. If I keep winning like this, they’re gonna shut me down. I won’t be able to place a chip within a 50 mile radius of the Edgemere Road. I can’t find a way out of my predicament. Can you?

Emma: What do you think – for Albert’s holiday?
Mickey: Um, very nice. Oh, not Indonesia, though. He sold the air force some fighter jets in the 70s and they still haven’t arrived.

Governor: ‘The Cavendish Cats Benevolent Fund’?
Albert: Yes, I just hope from the wrongs I’ve done some good can come – to cats.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

5.2 New Recruits

Summary and Spoilers

Emma and Sean, the new recruits, are about to be severly tested in their first long con with Mickey and Ash. Emma and Mickey pose as PR experts to trap Carlton Wood and Harry Fielding, two obnoxious Intellectual Property thieves. First, Emma gets Wood and Fielding to install their theft prevention device on a high-priced painting at the Royal Gallery. To prove that the system is foolproof, the painting will not be insured. Now, Ash has to figure out how to break the system so that the team can steal it and force Wood and Fielding into bankruptcy. Unfortunately, the security system is unbeatable; Ash cannot find a way around the multiple sensors sown into the canvas itself. Refusing to give up, Mickey tells Ash just to get them in the building, and he’ll take care of stealing the painting.

Meanwhile, Sean is doubting his ability and wonders if he is a viable member of the team. When not drunk, he has shown glimpses of real talent.


Two-thirds of the way through this episode, I was thinking, "I love this episode! I just wish it wasn’t going to end!" But then the long and detailed heist segment kind of ruined it for me. All those shutting of alarms and creeping around stairwells aiming torches…that’s not grifting, that’s just stealing. The resolution, of course, tidied that up nicely, but of course I could see that coming a mile away. Still, I’m not saying that it wasn’t a good episode – the pacing was frenetic and the character dynamics are interesting with Mickey almost hitting on Emma.

One thing I do miss is Marc Warren’s gift for comedy. Adrian Lester has great presence and wonderful power and delivery, but he’s not so good at the light-hearted stuff. It looks like Matt DiAngelo is going to take over that mantle.

Memorable Moments

  • Ash as a Russian tourist and Emma as his very blonde trophy date/wife

Hustle Quotes

Mickey: So, what do you think of our new recruits?
Ash: She’s sharp as a bleedin’ scalpel. And she’s fit, which never hurts.

Emma: And do you always get emotionally involved with your marks?
Mickey: Well, if I don’t, it’s just about the money.
Emma: And that’s a bad thing.
Mickey: For me, yes it is.

Alright, alright, tell you what…call this an interim contract, okay? So, I promise to sign your contract if you stop being a nob."
- Carlton Wood

Wood: How do I know I can trust you – that you’ll return the painting to me?
Mickey: Because if I don’t, Spider’s Web will be discredited and Mrs. Fowler won’t get a penny, and unlike you I will not allow that to happen.