One: this guide and its meta essays are superb. Absolutely superb.
Two: the reason I link this is a comment I want to make on the first essay, about why Shaw pulls shenanigans with the team, “not being a team player” and wanting to stab people she’s annoyed with, not putting up the numbers’ shit, when she was a stellar ISA agent.
What immediately struck me was a characterization point for Parker on my most recent close-look rewatch of Leverage.
For PoI fans not familiar with Leverage, the premise is a Robin-Hood gang with the best Hitter, Hacker, Thief, (of the cat-burglar/Ocean’s 11 “grease man” variety) Grifter, and Mastermind in the world working together.
The Thief of the group, Parker, is noted for being neuroatypical, (she’s insane, 10 pounds of crazy in a 5 pound bag, no social skills, no sense of normal human behavior, etc.) and can be a bit of a wildcard on the job, both because she’s terrible at grifting, and because she loves doing things for the thrill of it, such as jumping off of a balcony without knowing if her backup was there to catch her, or stabbing the mark in the thigh with a fork because she panicked about his flirting, and a flashback where we learned that she buried herself alive as a kid to combat her own fear of the dark. She’s also just gleeful in general on the jobs, loving that she gets to blow things up with C4, or forcing her partners to rappel down long distances with her, and sniffing the cash.
She’s characterized as the strangest member of the crew, who makes no bones about displaying that strangeness.
And then we get to a season 3 episode where we meet her mentor, the former greatest thief in the world. He calls her “kiddo.” When he gives her commands, she responds “Yes, sir.” When he says, “You have a topflight crew,” she says “They’re good. A little undisciplined.”
The wildcard thief is calling her best-of-the-best crew a little undisciplined.
What I took away from this reveal was that Parker didn’t have to behave as strangely as she did. She could have been the perfect professional, and she had to have before, in order to become known as the best in the business. But the crew has always done a little friendly bickering on the job, due to their working with a team for the first time after a long time of being prickly loners. Parker picked up on the fact that the crew could work with a little wiggle room for casual behavior, and ran with it, And the crew accepted that. only rebuking her shenanigans when they endangered the cons.
Similarly, I think that Reese and Shaw found that they didn’t have to be strict professionals on the job, and so take those opportunities not to be the most efficient and no-nonsense as they would in higher-stakes conflicts. Shaw made as if to stab the banker only because she knew Fusco would stop her. She blew her cover with the book club because it wasn’t like she needed any more information out of them, and they wouldn’t be able to sue Team Machine like they could have the ISA. And Reese doesn’t complian that much when either of them blow their covers, because they’re confident that they can handle the situations, so they have a little fun with it. I’m not convinced that Reese’s chocolate blunder with Caroline Turing was just his social awkwardness, but him trolling for his own amusement and petty revenge on the smug therapist trying to analyze him.
It’s a sign of how Team Machine is not just a job to them, but also a comfort zone, and eventually a family. They play around on the job because they can, and because they couldn’t, before.