|“||A world-famous painting goes missing, and, oh, look, a world-famous art thief happens to be on the premises.||”|
Sophie and Nate are at an estate sale for a wealthy art collector, when the most valuable painting turns up missing.
This episode has no client.
Originally, the mark is Sophie, due to Nate finding her to see what she is up to. Further into the show, when the painting is stolen, the mark shuffles through a list.
The Jonas Gault residence.
When Sophie tries to get time away from Nate, he gets suspicious and follows her to her destination, an auction of a private art collection. The centerpiece of the auction is a never-before-seen early painting by the collection's primary artist, a painting called Ma Mystere. Sophie explains that she loves this artist's work and couldn't pass up the chance to view what the artist himself described as his "inspiration." She doesn't get to see the painting as planned however, as it has disappeared from the vault in which it was kept. Sophie protests her innocence but Nate is skeptical. The coincidence is too much to take, he explains, attempting to steer her quickly off premises before anybody capable of recognizing such a coincidence can arrive. Too late. Unbelievably, James Sterling steps out of the crowd and takes them both into custody.
Nate and Sophie easily slip out of the handcuffs that Sterling had placed on them and move through the auction questioning household members and guests.They visit the room where the owner of the collection, Jonas Gault, died and find evidence that he could have been poisoned with an overdose of his own medication. Alerting Sterling to their findings, they team up to find the culprit. They soon find a painting wrapped and hidden in the butler's room.
It seems that the case is closed but, upon the unveiling of the painting, Sophie tells Nate that this is not the real Ma Mystere. She cannot or will not explain how she knows that. To prove it is a fake, they steal a painting for comparison. Sophie becomes emotionally affected when Nate runs a test on the paint that proves that the two paintings match. Her distress is such that Nate begins to consider the possibility that both paintings are fake. Considering the chances that Sophie stole one of the the other fakes in the collection to be very low unless they are all fakes, Nate proposes this to Sterling, who is frustrated to realize that the case is not over. He charges into the middle of the house and point-blank asks the entire room if anybody happened to replace every single painting in the collection with fakes. The curator drops everything and runs. Stunned that his clumsy interrogation actually worked, Sterling and Nate follow, After hearing a scream, they find the curator floating in the pool, apparently having fallen in her attempt to escape.
As Nate and Sophie unwind at the brewpub, Nate has an epiphany. He rushes back to the estate to examine the vault. Remembering that the codes had been changed, he now believes that the Ma Mystere never left the vault. He finds Gault's son outside the vault and is taken hostage at gunpoint. As the two discuss and recount the events surrounding the elder Gault's death, Sophie bursts in and smashes a vase over Gault's head. They run over the grounds of the estate, chased by Gault. Nate eventually traps him with the handcuffs that they had escaped from earlier and pushes him into the pool. Sterling arrives for what he hopes is the last arrest for this particular crime and the estate is once again emptied of guests and law enforcement.
Nate finds Sophie staring at the space in the vault where the painting used to be. She laments that she never got to see Ma Mystere. Nate smashes a hole in the vault wall and reveals the real Ma Mystere, a portrait of a young Sophie, in all her naked glory.
- The episode contains several Doctor Who references, notably Sophie and Sterling introducing themselves as Interpol Agents Tennant and Smith, the last names of the previous and current (at the time) actors playing the Doctor. Sophie's line, "Spoilers!" also comes from a running joke on Doctor Who, typically used by the Doctor's mysterious companion Dr. River Song whenever he tries to learn future events in her diary.
- Mark Sheppard has Doctor Who connections as well, having appeared with Smith and Alex Kingston (River Song) in the series six two-part opener, in the role of American Secret Service agent Canton Everett Delaware III.
- Parker (Beth Riesgraf), Hardison (Aldis Hodge) and Eliot (Christian Kane) are not seen in this episode at any point, because this episode runs concurrent to the previous episode, where they're taking on the bio-terrorist.
- Sophie was indeed in the Ma Mystère, making her the inspiration for all the paintings.
- The paper Sophie prints out reveals that this episode takes place after August 28th, but before September 11th.
- "Jonas Gault" could be derived from the name "John Galt" found in a variety of sources. The novel Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand has a character named John Galt. There are some similarities between Galt and Gault. It is said Rand's John Galt was influenced and named after a character(s) in a French novel, La Vallée Mystérieuse (note the name of the painting "Ma Mystère" and the novel "Mystérieuse.") Another possibility being a villain named John Galt from the creator of Conan the Barbarian, Robert E. Howard. Howard's Galt is a wealthy man shrouded in mystery (like Rand's Galt). Both the Leverage episode and the Howard story involve a mysterious disappearance.