[SPOILER heavy – proceed with caution]
You know it’s not going to be a light little chit chat when ASAC Peter Burke asks Neal Caffrey to meet him and it’s not about a case. As Peter reminds Neal of the important dates in his life- including his anniversary of the first day he met his fabulous wife, Elizabeth– he tosses in the date he arrested Neal the first time. Aw, I love that those dates are as important to him as the ones he has with El (and Tumblr and the fan fiction fandom wholeheartedly agree). But most importantly he’s there to casually mention how on the afternoon Peter let Neal off anklet for them to meet Sergei (their last case) Peter coincidentally found an FBI pen at a nearby location (hint: the office Neal and Mozzie used to scam Rebecca Lowe). Neal feigns innocence, but I’m hoping he’s keeping note of the fact that Peter is getting closer to putting pieces together. Neal knows better than to underestimate Peter’s skill at figuring the truth out where Neal is concerned.
Later, Peter and El are enjoying an anniversary dinner at the first place they had a date, and are both surprised when Peter’s ex (Lover? Girlfriend? They never clarify but guess it’s all the same), Jill, approaches and crashes their party for two when El invites her to join them. We find she’s with the FBI’s Special Surveillance Group (SSG)– which is actually a thing- and specifically tracked Peter down. Peter is already clearly off his guard with Jill suddenly around, and it can’t get any better any time soon for the poor man. (Tim DeKay gives the perfect “oh crap, what am I getting into face” as they cut to the opening credits. It’s wonderful).
Not one to waste any time trying to figure out the mysterious “chapter 13” that Mosconi apparently created only in his Codex, Neal invites Rebecca up to his apartment in a slightly suggestive show and tell. No, not that kind (well, maybe sort of) but more to the fact that he’s again the clever genius we know and love, and he figures out that pages of the Codex chapter actually reassemble into a single image. Rebecca is so excited she jumps up and kisses a surprised, but obviously pleased, Neal. I suppose that’s how she might react over anything that really gets her excited, but I’d like to think it’s because Neal is standing next to her and she’s not willing to let that opportunity pass. In true fashion, trust the man, the myth, the Mozzie to enter and break up the snogging. Keeping it professional until a stammering Rebecca leaves, Mozzie then gently reminds Neal that when Neal mixes work and women together, it never ends well. Neal’s visibly uncomfortable with that truth, but Neal being Neal, and against Mozzie’s cautions, it’s heart on the sleeve or be damned for our CI.
As a nod to the season plot point thread of Agent David Siegel’s murder, the Feds get a possible break. (And so do we, since we still miss Siegel and want him avenged). Seems someone’s been flashing an FBI badge and NYPD can’t tell if it’s the real deal. Peter sends Neal to work with Agent Clinton Jones on catching the perp. In the meantime, Jill arrives at the White Collar offices where Peter hastily dismisses a curious Neal. Sure enough, Neal and Jones observe them through the glass office walls and work out the body language to guess that Peter and Jill used to have a relationship back in their Quantico days. I’m going to just let this one ride, as I’ve already given myself over to accepting Neal’s abilities to read people and their body language, since it was rather spot on. Maybe a wee bit too spot on, but like I said, I’m good to go with it.
Jill is enlisting Peter’s help in nabbing a tech analyst, Mason Sadowski, who has developed a nifty new microchip for a Government defense contractor. Seems said chip hacks passwords, and he’s gone rogue by putting it up on the black market. But the pinch is it’s a classified case, so he can’t tell anyone on his team, or his wife. This leads to growing suspicion for El, especially when Jill drops by the house and whisks Peter away to start the case. El’s clearly not pleased this is the first case Peter can’t confide in her about, and it was a bit too close to home for her when Jill casually comments she’ll try to bring him back in one piece. We know El’s been feeling more protective of Peter than usual these last few months, and his stint in prison (let alone the accident incited by Senator Pratt last season) has her more cautious than we’re used to.
I’m going to give props to director Willie Garson (yes, that Willie Garson, our one and only Mozzie) for the quick little scene of Jones and Neal as they cruise Brooklyn in Peters’ BMW looking for the badge flasher. It’s not a big scene, and it’s not required for plot momentum, but 1) Jones looks great driving that sweet ride and 2) Neal looks amazing in that side window camera set up. Garson gives the fangirls (and fanguys!) a little bone and we’ll take it.
Cut to Jill (in the car she lives in) confiding in Peter about how she lost her partner years ago and mentions she knows Peter must feel bad about Siegel. This apparently is a rare time Peter has opened up about how he feels about Siegel’s death. I assume he’s done so with El, at least, since there’s no discernible reason why he wouldn’t. It wasn’t classified and he’s clearly shared very personal feelings with his wife before now. She knows Siegel died on his watch, that he brought Siegel to NY from Chicago and that his death was a real blow to him. I suppose this scene was meant to show us that the feelings from an old flame can still linger and still be tapped into while there’s no closure.
Although Neal and Jones nab the guy flashing Siegel’s badge, he’s not the killer, and this clearly upsets Peter, who very much wants to solve this for himself and Siegel. When he gets home, late and beat, he finds El in bed still awake. He can’t tell her anything about the case he’s working on with Jill, and this continues to upset her. As she herself notes, she’s an FBI wife, so I’m not entirely clear on why she feels that Peter bending the rules for her– which he would do if he discussed the case– would be the better option.
Back at the office, Peter and Jill identify the men in an SUV they noticed outside the hotel Sadowski is staying in. They had taken a selfie to capture the vehicle surreptitiously and records show these are ex-Black Ops guys on the market for the microchip. When Peter suggests pulling in Jones to assist with tailing them, Jill rejects the idea. She says it’s her case — that she brought to him — but he puts his foot down as ASAC and she concedes. I liked that even though Peter could still talk openly with her about personal issues, he puts on his FBI ASAC face and sets the priorities for the case. This nicely counterpoints the relationship Neal and Rebecca are forming. While Mozzie rightly tells Neal that he has a habit of mixing up women with work and it leads to heartache, Peter shows here that he can keep them separate and stay on task. It also shows that under it all, his heart already belongs to El, so it’s an easier distinction for him to make.
El stops by the offices to leave Peter a brown bag lunch while he’s in a meeting, and looks through some of the papers on his desk and sees the picture of Sadowski and the selfie. Queue the suspicious wife music. She meets with Mozzie at home where he tries to convince her to tail Peter, which she steadfastly refuses. She trusts Peter too much, but isn’t above a shade of jealously and mistrust when it comes to Jill. Mozzie has one of the nicest lines here, in my opinion. He tells her there are a few things in life you can trust but “People, almost never.” El points out that he trusts Neal, to which he replies, “Neal is the reason ‘never’ was preceded by ‘almost’.” I simply love that. In the end, she agrees to scope out Jill and enlists Neal to help. (Is it just me, or is Neal driving– on or off screen– in almost every episode this season? That’s certainly new).
They end up at the same hotel where the microchip deal is going down, and after Peter and Jill go upstairs to make the deal as buyers before she enters, El recognizes Sadowski from the file on Peter’s desk while she’s in the hotel bar. She notifies Neal, then flirts with Sadowski to get him to have a drink. He nervously declines and while he’s borrowing her phone to give her his number, he slips the microchip into the phone case. Neal and El see him taken upstairs by obvious thugs (our ex-Black Ops guys) and follow. At the room, ex-Black Ops catch Peter and Jill and tie up all three captives. Neal gets El in the main door of the suite, and she stalls them enough to let Neal come in from another entrance. There’s a cool (but totally unlikely) moment with Neal taking a running slide across the floor and only one swipe to free Peter’s bonds, but everyone is safe and sound.
While we get our “Quantico closure” with Jill and Peter, and Peter apparently is only now telling El how he feels about Siegel’s death (!), the final fun scene is with Neal and Rebecca. He has her close her eyes as he’s leading her to a special place off the street, and when she finally is allowed to open them, he points out the window in an old church that is quite obviously the same image they puzzled together from Mosconi’s chapter 13. She gasps in sheer delight and leans into him closely as she’s overcome (not something I would do, or anyone I know, but again Rebecca seems to react entirely on her own triggers). She stutteringly apologizes about not being professional (so that kiss in the apartment was?) and backs away, but not before he can grab her and in old school, dreamy, cinema style starts a breathless kiss until we fade. All I’ll say here is that, wow, that kiss (but it’s Neal, so, you know, of course it was wow) and I have to think his little quip “not that big of a curb” was all Bomer ad lib, yet again. While Rebecca was amusing in this episode, I’m still not sure I trust her and can’t get a bead on her true intentions. I’d love to be proven right, and that the stuttering, the awkward grabs at Neal and the wide-eyed awe at all things Mosconi are all a cover and she’s a bad-ass, steel-eyed adversary who wants the same thing Hagen does and is using Neal to get it. Or she’s just a pretty redhead with a thing for books and blue-eyed con men. Yeah, there’s that, too.