FBI Agent Peter Burke’s on ice (but not on the rocks) while Neal Caffrey chews gum, and scenery, as our boys hit the streets and skating rinks of New York’s Little Odessa to nab a Russian crime mob.
[SPOILER heavy – proceed with caution]
As far as A Plots go, this week’s White Collar was a solid stand alone, but it was the B Plot that kept things gliding along. In a nutshell, the Feds have a lead on Sergei Turgenev and it’s up to Neal and Peter to get close to his gang and his agenda. It doesn’t hurt that Sergei has a sweet spot for his love, Katya– aspiring figure skating champion– and ice hockey. This intel helps Neal smoothly maneuver Peter into going under cover as a successful professional figure skating coach while Neal plays a slick and slimy sports agent to keep themselves close to Sergei. Peter manages to convince Katya to work with them to bring down Sergei, since she’s not really in love with him, but she’s also too alone and frightened to try and leave him. They assume correctly that if Katya accepts Sergei’s recent marriage proposal, he’ll throw a big party and invite all his Russian mob friends. That’s when Peter, Agent Clinton Jones and the Fed squad take down the entire ring. I will note that during the party, Peter has Neal follow one of Sergei’s baddies, and considering Neal is unarmed– unless you count his silver tongue and quick thinking– if Jones hadn’t come in when he did, it might have gone very wrong for our Con. These circumstances come up often in White Collar and it’s odd that no one really takes to account that Neal goes in to the same dangerous situations as the armed Feds with no protection.
So, yes, that was the breakdown of the A Plot, and the only reason I go over it so summarily, is that it’s the little bits in between that are more fun to pay attention to. For example, when we first find Neal, Peter and Jones out on the Brighton Beach boardwalk, Neal’s gone ahead with their sting and gets arrested alongside Ivan, who has provided Neal’s alias, Nick Halden, a very authentic passport. But Neal’s asked a question– just one– as to how Ivan was able to make the document with the embedded chip. Apparently, this set off a nerve for Peter, as he gives Neal the old stink eye and dressing down, and Neal responds with predictable huffiness. It was a good little scene in that there was just the slightest bit of annoyance between them, and I sort of sided with Peter this time in wanting to give Neal a little head smack. That made me smile. (And yes, I’m not blind, we all agree Matt Bomer looked amazing in those khakis and that white shirt, I’m just trying to not let his great outfits this episode distract me. Well, not too much.) And as Peter expresses his not untoward concern for not trusting what affect Dr. Summers had on Neal in their previous case, where $2 million of stolen money is still out there, he sums it up nicely: “Dr. Summers had a tendency to take bad guys who want to be good and turn them into worse guys.” Indeed.
On to some Plot B action: We haven’t forgotten about the Moscone Codex, and neither have Neal and Mozzie. They’ve tried and tried to decipher the text of their copy of Chapter 13- the only chapter Curtis Hagen, Neal’s current nemesis, wanted stolen from the museum in episode 3- to no avail. It’s a good thing then that Neal runs into Rebecca Lowe at the office, she of the art history background and Moscone Codex obsession. Rebecca complains about being in a fix from being fired since she can’t get work and wants an apology note from Peter. Neal explains that it was actually Agent Gruetzner of Art Crimes who was in charge and he could set something up for her tomorrow. If anyone doesn’t know he was already planning on bringing Mozzie into this as Agent Gruetzner, then go back and rewatch all the seasons of the show until you’ve learned your lesson.
We’ve also got a nice scene at the Burke’s home where Peter wants Elizabeth to help coach him on being a figure skating coach. There’s a little mention of their second date, on ice, where Peter comments she was sprawled out on the ice like Bambi, which later on El refers back to with a hint of resentment. Seems she’s not entirely certain that Bambi on ice isn’t Peter’s type of girl.
Mozzie and June help set up a chiropractor’s office as a temporary FBI office, so Neal can meet Rebecca there to show her to Codex. This looks like a win-win to Neal since it keeps Rebecca distracted from the strange meeting place and they may be able to play her into helping them decipher the documents. A small nod here to Bomer’s great little moments of acting, here and in nearly every scene. While Mozzie is telling him about the office they can use, you can see Neal’s skepticism and impatience clearly on his face, yet it’s subtle enough to be written off as passive attention.
Neal gets off the anklet and manages to evade Peter (leaving Peter alone to swig drink for drink with Sergei, to solidify their working arrangement. Poor midday inebriated Peter!) and meets Rebecca at the “FBI” offices they’ve set up nearby. Mozzie gives her the letter she wants, but apparently she also wants closure. It’s a Federal case, it’s closed and her part in it was defined (and dismissed) so I’m not really clear on what that closure was meant to be. But no matter, Mozzie and Neal diverted her attention with the Codex and ask for her assistance. Of course she gets excited and is all for it.
The oddest scene of the episode was El’s reaction to Peter’s newest job. She married an FBI Agent– a really, really good one– and she’s lived with that life style ever since. But now she’s professing her disapproval of his field work and unlike last season when she was worried specifically about Senator Pratt’s machinations, this felt a bit jarring and unexpected. But we have indications this season is meant to show a bit of a strain on their relationship, so I get that. I just don’t particularly like it, as the Burke’s are one of the best TV couples on air these days.
Jones and Peter locate the chiropractor’s office and Peter finds an FBI pen that wasn’t cleaned up with the rest of the props. Convenient, no? We’ll give the writers that lead out, though, as we have to keep giving Peter rewards for his suspicions of Neal’s current activities. And aside from Peter and El having an adorable date on ice, the final scene really belongs to Neal and Rebecca. Mozzie tells Neal she’s called to say she can help them, but not before Mozzie notes some unbridled enthusiasm from Neal that she called at all. I’m sure the scene was meant to be sweet and show us Neal’s natural attraction to Rebecca, but I don’t recall any other relationship Neal’s had where he’s been so puppy doggish and obvious. He’s a mature, well-learned man and he’s always taken matters of the heart very carefully. This seems a little too high school crush for my tastes and Neal even quips to Mozzie “what is this, sixth grade?” Well, good question: Is it? It certainly feels like it. And Neal’s practically giddy reaction when he meets her in the library brings that home. I’m also inclined to think that having Mozzie give us exposition about how he can’t see how Neal could like her (because of reasons), just makes it the more obvious they’re going to be thrown together in an unlikely romance. Rebecca telling Neal about her jail time is funny since we know Neal’s got her beat there in every conceivable way, and I suppose it’s that tough innocence he’s falling for. And is this a thing, “their thing,” then, with Neal touching her right shoulder from behind and her turning to look? Anyway, I’m still hopeful we’ll see Rebecca get some confidence and some backbone, and have faith the writers will come through with that. But until then, I’m still on the fence that their relationship is organic in any nature.
We find out that Moscone was superstitious and never had a Chapter 13. So what do Neal and Mozzie actually have and what makes the Codex Moscone’s most enigmatic work? It’ll be interesting finding the answer to that part of the mystery. Finally, it was good to see the Feds placing Agent David Siegel’s picture in the obituary gallery, as it’s a reminder that Neal’s got that to answer for, as well.