[SPOILER heavy – proceed with caution]
Now that we know Rebecca Lowe was working with Curtis Hagen (again, RIP to a great character) in order to get Neal to steal and solve the mystery of Mosconi’s Codex, the question left to ASAC Peter Burke, and a stunned Neal, is how she’s involved with the murder of Special Agent David Siegel. Neal fesses up to Peter what he knows about Rebecca, including how Hagen told Neal to steal the Codex from the museum, where Neal approached her for the first time — the light dawning that this was probably Hagen’s plan, as well (and what some suspected early on) – and about the lost twin to the Hope Diamond. (It’s not easy to see Neal so openly dumbfounded at being blind-sided as he is, and Matt Bomer’s expressive face paints his reactions in full color.) They decide to have Neal meet with Rebecca, as if nothing was wrong, keeping her occupied while the Feds go through her apartment.
This episode – actually, most of this entire season – owes a debt of gratitude to the wonder of Mozzie. He’s been the single most stable character this season, equal parts supportive and loyal BFF to Neal, and the source of perfect pitch one-liners and bon mots. There’s no doubt the off screen friendship between Bomer and Willie Garson have a big hand in their interplays, but without doubt, their scenes together have been better this season than ever. This episode is no exception. After Mozzie does a bug sweep of Neal’s apartment (rendering a cubic zirconia earring, implying Neal’s at least had action in that fabulous flat before he met Rebecca) he sympathizes with his friend, who tells him this was the first time in a while he was excited about someone. Thinking alike as always, they consider that Rebecca may have Hagen’s blackmail video of Neal stealing the coins and Neal should be focused on obtaining it. They have a point: Even if Peter knows Neal stole the coins, he has no proof (luckily!) and if Rebecca gives it to the Feds or US Marshalls, Neal and Peter can still go down hard.
I have to admit, I was just as apprehensive of seeing Rebecca when Neal opened his door as he was. She arrives in the morning unannounced instead of for their lunch date, and it takes all of Neal’s con man super powers to stay calm and collected and act the part of the boyfriend, to not let slip his building resentment and revulsion that she probably killed Siegel and used Neal every minute they were together. Director Doug Hannah does a fine job in this scene, too, with soft, cool lighting that matches Neal’s well-managed calm. He gives Neal and Rebecca very short extra beats to keep each line of dialogue just barely hanging, making us wonder if either Neal or Rebecca will take a statement or gesture wrong and blow the ruse wide open. As it is, Neal goes through the motions of “just another date with my girlfriend” while you can tell he’s really feeling like he’s in the lion’s cage trying not make an abrupt move for fear of a sudden mauling. And nice job by writers Jessica Grasl and Matt Whitney for providing the verbiage. There’s a simple little exchange of Neal telling Rebecca he could leave his criminal life behind for her, but Rebecca scoffs him, asking if he really thinks he could do that. It calls back to the many times this season that Neal’s been labelled a criminal and been told he’s unlikely to ever change. You can see the sting those words have on Neal’s face, but he recovers quickly back into the game. Then one of the Harvard grads (aka. low level, inept Feds) trips the security in Rebecca’s place as they gather evidence, which alerts Rebecca by text. Neal uses his last gambit to stall her: he tells her he’s falling in love with her. Momentarily flustered, Rebecca nudges her glasses up in that overtly practiced move. This may indicate she’s taken by surprise and wants to solidify herself in her Rebecca cover. Does it mean she returns the feelings for Neal? Good question. But in the next scene, Neal, Peter and Special Agent Clinton Jones observe her from the cameras they hid in her place as she calls Neal and declares she loves him, too. Neal clarifies to them that he only told her that to stall her earlier, but Peter thinks she really fell for him. It’s a coin toss for me, to be honest, as I tend to side with Neal in that her con was indifferent of feelings.
Peter tries to play devil’s advocate (for the show and for the countless fans who believed in Rebecca) and prevail upon Neal that maybe Rebecca fell for her own con – her hand crafted Neal-specific girlfriend, cobbled out of his past loves’ profiles – and really fell for Neal. But even Neal is seeing things more conservatively now and admits she’s possibly playing along to keep Neal at her side in searching for the diamond.
Bringing Rebecca into interrogation under the premise that Neal might be a suspect in Hagen’s murder, Peter cautions her to avoid Neal, while Neal and Jones observe. Neal, always the reader of people, believes more and more that the dupe was complete and that she cares more for getting caught by the Feds than whether or not Neal is in trouble. I appreciate how Neal came to his senses so quickly once he realized Rebecca’s game, knowing that detaching himself emotionally is the only way to move forward to find out who she is and what she wants.
They set up a sting in a park to catch Rebecca confessing to Neal, but it goes south just as she tells Neal the Feds are on to him about Hagen. To keep her talking, he declares he has to go on the run, but she notices the undercover Feds. (They’re never as subtle as they think, by the way.) As she makes her escape, she admits to him that she was about to throw everything away and go with him. Really, if she had actually read her own research on Neal, she’d know that he’s not exactly the kind of con that goes into chicks who murder people, especially Feds. It’s meant to show us that she really did love him, but Neal would have renounced her anyway, so it’s a moot point.
After going back through her apartment – where she takes a warning shot through a window at Neal, grazing his arm – they find her “Go bag” (apparently every criminal has one, ready with fake IDs, passports, cash in multiple currencies, etc. I have to get one!). One of my favorite moments of the episode is when Neal’s checking drawers in the bedroom and forlornly remarks that Peter probably feels he deserves this, and that he always prided himself on being one step ahead of everyone; always the con man, never the con. Peter gently objects in obvious sympathy, but it’s a great little piece of introspection made all the more intimate and raw since it’s done while Neal is actively going through the belongings of the women he loved, looking for evidence. It doesn’t get much lower than that.
Tracing their steps in the area of her apartment, where Siegel was killed, they find where Rebecca tossed the gun. They later confirm her fingerprints and identify her as Rachel Turner, wanted by Britain’s MI5. Appears she was once one of their own, but ended up selling classified intel to willing buyers thus going rogue. Mozzie isn’t pleased to hear this when they’re back at Neal’s’ place that evening – mind you, sitting on the floor eating Indian food because Mozzie is the BFF of all BFFs and insists it’s to keep Neal out of sniper range in his open concept apartment — and even less pleased when Neal tells him he’s going to make a trade with Rachel: the location of the diamond for the blackmail video. Mind you, Neal doesn’t have the location of the diamond, and thus Mozzie’s discomfort.
The meeting takes place in an abandoned hotel where they exchange more than just items. As she tells him she doesn’t trust him anymore, he still maintains that he wants her to run with him, that they can find the diamond together. No, he wasn’t having second thoughts about running off with a confirmed killer, he was just buying time and a reason to bring her close enough to handcuff himself to her. In another interesting callback, when Rachel mocks him for wanting to remain shackled (to the Feds) he says he’s still freer than she is. He had a very similar exchange with Dr. Summers. It seems for all Neal’s saber-rattling about cutting ties with Hagen (not an issue now) and the Feds, he may actually see the value in his current lot. He breaks the flash drive (we assume ending the blackmail saga) even as she shoots the cuffs and runs. The Feds get her outside and she’s hauled away.
Closing up the case, Peter tells Neal about his position in Washington and that he starts in 2 weeks. And apparently after that saber-rattling of his own last episode, Peter makes it clear he intends to have Jones handle Neal when he’s gone. This surprises Neal, of course – and us – but he tells Neal it’s because he helped catch a Fed killer and that makes them copacetic. Obviously, Peter doesn’t know Neal overheard his discussion with Jones in the last episode, and it would look odd for him to expound otherwise, but for us, the viewers, it feels like a swift change of heart. And that’s what I’m going with – a change of heart – as Peter, most likely, finally put together that all of Neal’s actions of late were at the mercy of his own heart. He stole the coins and faked James Bennett’s confession for his love of Peter. He gave his heart to a murdering con who played him with shocking ease. We know Peter enough that he’d realize (again) that his criminal CI has good intentions and that should be enough for him to move on to DC and let things mend between them.
And just when you think all’s well that ends well, Neal gets a collect call from Rachel in prison. She makes no threat, but instead simply promises Neal he’ll see her again soon. Whether or not this ups the ante for the diamond quest or Neal’s mortality, we’ll soon find out. But one thing we know for sure: Bon Jovi was right, Rachel undeniably gives love a bad name.