A man exhorts his stock brokers on how to hook their clients. It's a fly-by-night operation set up in a empty floor of an office building. As the boss takes over the phone call from a lackey, an FBI team creeps down the stairs, preparing to bust him.
He gets on the phone and cons a school marm out of everything. His men cheer.
The FBI team busts in -- it's the wrong room. They find a note on the phone saying "Maybe next time."
The school marm meets with Nate and Sophie, saying she lost everything for her special needs school. She thinks con men are the worst.
At loft HQ, Hardison briefs them on Greg Sherman, a direct descendant of "the Yellow Kid," who swindled $10 million around the turn of the last century. He's operating an inverted pyramid, calling 10 people to say the market's going up, and 10 saying it's going down, then follow up with whichever you get right. Except he's calling 1000 people.
"You can't con a con artist," Nate says. "We're just going to have to steal from him."
Cut to Hardison among Sherman's latest pool of recruits, getting a pep talk on swindling. Sophie listens in and thinks he reads people really well. Hardison puts on a Bronx accent to impress Sherman and displays the amount of swagger Sophie tells him to.
Sherman supervises Hardison closing a deal and transferring someone's money. When Hardison gets off the call, he promptly transfers it back.
Later that day, Sophie and Nate deal with Parker bouncing off the walls from attending a chocolate convention. Hardison reports he's been looking for Sherman's money, but can't find it.
Sherman comes in, saying he expected to find him. "I expect nothing less from Alec Hardison, hacker extraordinaire, when he's trying to pull a cyber heist."
Nate listens, feeding Hardison lines. He says he was hired by a commodities broker to park proxies in Sherman's account to corner the cocoa market. (Parker blurts out "chocolate" and he has to go with it.) He says his boss is "Count Chocula."
Sherman wants to meet him tomorrow at 9 a.m. Nate and the team get to work.
Nate and Sophie go to Travers Investments as an IRS and British equivalent agent, saying they're doing a spot audit. They shuttle him off and turn Travers into Royal Commodities.
Nate walks in on Sophie changing and admire the lingerie he bought her.
Hardison brings Sherman to see Nate, but Nate says he's not interested and they have to leave because "she" is on her way and he doesn't want to spook her. Nate puts on a show of firing Hardison to go meet Sophie.
Nate reminds the team they have to be at their best because Sherman is looking for signs. Hardison sets up a front of Sophie as a chocolatier. She strolls through the chocolate convention with Parker as her assistant. Sherman lifts Parker's Blackberry, which irks her but Nate says it's good that he checks up on them.
Sophie takes park is a chocolate tasting exhibition in which she has to identify a chocolate's origins. She nails the country and the purity and establishes her bona fides.
Sherman tries to talk to her after she comes off stage, but she breezes by to talk to Chinese business people in Chinese. Sherman's man translates and learns that Sophie is opening hundreds of chocolate stores in China, which means the demand will skyrocket and so will the stock.
Sherman and his man accost Nate outside his "office" and stuff him in a trunk.
Nate wakes up with his earbud still intact and Eliot offering to bust in to save him. Nate says it's fine and listens to Sherman.
Nate says the crop report is coming out soon, but it's going to be wrong. He says Sophie has nothing to do with it, but Sherman doesn't believe him because he can tell Nate's sleeping with her. Which is how the rest of the team learns about that.
Nate says the normal crop report will allow him to keep buying futures until the world realizes supply is low and then he'll be rich.
Back at the loft, Nate says Sherman knows every grifter, so they have to use civilians. They just have to keep pushing Sherman until he's out of his comfort zone.
Cut to Ecuador, Eliot leading Sherman through a rainforest jungle.
Parker works on getting lots of monitors for something.
Sophie interviews amateur actors for something.
Eliot gives Sherman the full staredown, talking about darkness in the jungle. He kills a snake and eats its heart for emphasis.
Parker brings Nate pallets full of monitors she charged to Sherman's guy's credit card.
Eliot brings Sherman to a clearing where a forest is being clear cut. He explains that too much sunlight is bad for cocoa and the government is in the timber industry. Sherman figures out that that's why Nate knows the crop report will be wrong.
Back in his call center operation, Sherman tells all his guys to buy timber. "I cannot wait to make this call," Sherman says, dialing.
Sherman calls Nate, saying he wants in. Nate says it'll cost $10 million. Sherman's in.
Sophie preps her roomful of amateur actors, dressed for a trading floor. They warn everyone not to stare at the marks. They run a rehearsal and one of the actors trips over a cord and pulls the plug.
Hardison checks in from in front of a computer, bleary eyed from being up all night.
They have a second to regroup when Eliot announces Sherman is there. He walks in to a bustling room with dozens of traders on the phones and shouting. He gives Nate a briefcase, saying it has everything he's going to give him. He opens it. It's empty.
Sherman busts out laughing, saying he was onto them from the first minute. He admires their flourishes, like flying him to Ecuador, but mocks the fake trading room floor and the amateur actors.
Sherman says he flooded the market with their fake cocoa story and bought $30 million in futures, doing what they were pretending to. He's extremely pleased with himself, announcing that by the time the market figures it out he'll have made $100 million and be living in a non-extradition treaty. He claims it'll be the biggest con in history.
Sherman says he was so focused on Nate and Sophie that they couldn't con him. Nate tells Sherman he's right, and they didn't con him. But he was so focused on trying to figure out their con that he forgot about plan A: Hardison's cyber heist. Sherman says he just moved all his money.
Flash to Hardison moving all Sherman's money. Sherman calls to check and gets Hardison. Hardison promptly hands the phone over to the FBI guy from the opening, Parker's old crush McSweeney, who informs Sherman he's being charged with insider trading and a bunch of other stuff.
Sherman's goon makes a run for it, but Eliot knocks him out. The FBI comes in.
As he's being led away, Sherman asks who the room full of actors is. Nate says they're all his victims.
Flash to Sophie interviewing the actors and asking how much Sherman stole from each of them. Even the teacher from the beginning is there.
One of the FBI guys gives Parker a note from McSweeny and a haiku. Sherman protests that Parker isn't FBI, she's a thief, but they lead him away.
Back at the bar, the teacher thanks Nate for returning her money, but says she got more than her $72,000 back -- there's more than $1 million in the account.
The rest of the team confronts Nate and Sophie about their relationship, but they chalk it up as friends with benefits.
Later, upstairs, Hardison brings Nate info on the guy who bugged the apartment and called him. He's Jack Lattimer (Leon Rippy), an investment banker with interest in all the companies they burned, including ConAgra, Merced and others. Nate asks Hardison how much they burned him for, but Hardison says they didn't.
Cut to Nate waiting for Lattimer at his palatial log cabin. Lattimer says three years ago his firm had money in Pearson Aviation -- one of the team's first cons. He had surveillance on them so when the owner cried con men, Lattimer had the evidence to believe him. But he's not upset, saying Nate isn't a villain, he's a market correction.
Lattimer says he figured out the team's patterns and bet against their targets. He's been making money off Nate's victories.
Nate's ready to leave, but Lattimer makes his proposal, asking Nate what about the ones that are still getting away with it? He has names he can provide, but all he wants in exchange is 24 hours warning to make his move against them.
Nate walks away.
"Your pride more important than helping people?" Lattimer asks.