With the gap between ASAC Peter Burke and his favorite CI, Neal Caffrey, appearing to get bigger, a revealing ending might just bridge it. (Bridge it. Bridget. See what I did there?)
[SPOILER heavy – proceed with caution]
An episode that starts with Peter running in a park is likely to be a good one (Tim DeKay is in fabulous shape and I’m thrilled when the show reminds us of this) and I’m not wrong. He gets a call from HQ saying he’s being offered a position in DC– which starts in 2 weeks!– as Section Chief. Hello, promotion time! Well, it would be except Peter says he’s got open cases, pending cases, etc. and he has to pause when asked if he’s ready to leave the White Collar division. Gee, I wonder why? Back in the office when Agent Clinton Jones brings him a new art forgery case, he calls Peter out on the chilly vibes between Peter and Neal. Major points to Jones for not pulling punches and finally stating the obvious: that Neal constantly gets into trouble with the law, Peter has to bail him out and ends up the one in the hot seat for it. I’m personally thanking writers Jim Campolongo and Chris Masi for saying what many of us fans have been thinking for 4+ years. We love Neal, we really do, but when looked at objectively– as Jones is– he’s a liability to Peter and his career. Jones would admit to liking Neal and even calling him a cautious friend, I’m sure, but the reality is that Neal is a CI and Peter has been handling him with kid gloves for too long. I know, that’s the premise of the show, but I was totally on board with this little intervention of Jones’s and I was happy to see that Peter was, too.
Neal is off to meet his nemesis, Curtis Hagen, with Mozzie along for the support. It’s clear Neal is bummed that Peter has frozen him out, keeping him at beck and call for cases only. But although he understands that Peter is still bristling at knowing Neal broke the law to get him out of prison, I think he fails to truly internalize why this is so hard for Peter. I wish Neal could see that although his intentions were good and the ends met, the means were against everything Peter believes in and has worked for in his career.
Neal approaches Hagen alone and demands that in exchange for the Mosconi window, Neal will get the blackmail video of him stealing the gold coins. But Hagen has other plans and shows Neal his phone and the streaming video he has of Rebecca Lowe, bound and gagged in the corner of a room looking very worried and frightened, as one does when kidnapped. Neal’s anger and threats noted, Hagen holds the cards and Neal has no choice but to deliver the window to him in 30 minutes.
Finding no way to locate Rebecca and rescue her, Mozzie provides Neal with a small transmitter with GPS, along with the earwig receiver, hoping to plant it on Hagen so he can lead them to Rebecca. Amazingly, Mozzie actually suggest they call in Peter to help find her, which Neal refuses. I’m with the bald guy on this. Go, Feds!
Speaking of our Fed, I love the short discussion between Peter and Elizabeth Burke. She’s a bit flustered about the sudden job offer and move, but sees the promotion for what it is- Peter’s advancement in the career he loves- and she echoes Jones in calling Peter out on his attachment to Neal and the consequences of it. He says he’s made his peace with Neal’s actions, but she rightly questions if he’s made his peace with Neal himself. Again, thank you to Campolongo and Masi for using these supporting characters as our mouthpieces to gently yet honestly call Peter out on his relationship with Neal. I know fans are still unhappy with Peter, saying that what Neal did to free Peter was worth the eschewing of the law, and that if he hadn’t intervened as he did Peter would almost surely be indicted and in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. And we know Peter knows this, but he’s also doing whatever he can to salvage his integrity and work ethic.
Neal and Mozzie meet with Hagen in a warehouse to hand over the decoder piece of glass from the window. Neal expects to retrieve Rebecca, but instead Hagen shows him another live feed and renegotiates: he wants them to decipher the Codex for him. He begins to tell them the history of the Codex, that the Masons entrusted Mosconi with “something of great value,” and he hid clues to it in a mural, which Hagen shows them. Before he can tell them what the item is, Peter calls for Neal to join him on that art forgery case Jones brought him, leaving Mozzie to decode the Codex alone. A lost William Blake painting is at an auction house, and they want the Feds to verify its authenticity. Neal pulls out his own loupe to inspect it (he wears these super slim, completely bespoke suits and you’re telling me he has this with him all the time? Where is he hiding it??) and finds the telltale hidden “CH” that Hagen always uses to sign his forgeries. Peter decides they’ll pose as buyers and let the sale go through to catch Hagen in the act. When Neal asks to be excused, there’s a tense but expected exchange between him and Peter. We know that Neal feels he did the “right thing”– what Peter couldn’t– but Peter retorts that Neal took a system Peter believes in and corrupted it.
Again, I have to say I side with Peter, if only because he’s truly trying to reconcile his belief system and entire moral code with his friendship and concern for Neal, and he’s dealing with a hefty bout of cognitive dissonance for the effort. He’s only condemning Neal as he has been because it’s his only means of showing this internal conflict, and it’s why he didn’t arrest Neal in the first place. I don’t even consider it hypocrisy, as some do, but more Peter’s cry in the dark as he tries to sort out for himself how he can accept what Neal did (and he will accept it, eventually) and staying true to his beliefs in the justice system. He’s between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Leaving each other in a huff, Neal plants the GPS tracker on Peter, deciding to let the Feds find Hagen and thus Rebecca for him.
Mozzie finds that there are images of an ancient text inscribed in invisible ink and per Hagen’s demands has been tracing them onto individual sheets. Neal gets caught up and also inserts the earwig from Mozzie, just as the Feds work with the auction house to make the sale with Hagen. As Neal is working on the last sheet, he hears Peter and Jones in the office through the receiver. Neal overhears Peter say that when he leaves, Neal becomes the next ASAC’s problem, and warns Jones not to be the one to take Neal on, as he’ll regret it. Okay, I’ll admit, that was a little hard to hear, especially when seen from Neal’s p.o.v. (which we do) since it implies Peter coming to a final verdict on his feelings about Neal. But, when seen from Peter’s p.o.v. in the office, it makes good sense and one can’t blame Peter for making that statement. He’s had more experience than anyone in dealing with Neal as a CI, and for all their high case closure rates, the cost has been pretty high to Peter personally, as well.
Neal has Mozzie memorize the sheets and then threatens Hagen with burning them unless he frees Rebecca. Hagen cedes and calls for her release, and they can see on the feed light from an opening door and Rebecca scrambling to her feet and leaving their view. Neal tells Hagen to have her captor give her the phone so Neal can keep her on the line while he and Mozzie escape. Rebecca and Neal talk each other through their short trek on the sidewalks of Brooklyn (conveniently close!) until they find each other and embrace. Back in his apartment, Rebecca asks Neal to tell her what they found, and they deduce that the clues all lead to a lost twin of the famous Hope Diamond.
Mozzie calls to tell them the Feds have captured Hagen (Go, Feds! They traced the sale to his computer) but that worries Neal as Hagen might tell Peter about the stolen coin heist and get all of them in even hotter water. He leaves Rebecca to head into the office. Hagen convinces Peter to take him to his place since he has something to show the Feds, and Jones tells Peter that Neal’s tracking data places him with Hagen all afternoon. Outside his building, Hagen is shot dead by a sniper so they have no idea what he wanted to show them. (Sad to see Hagen go, Mark Sheppard was great in this run!) Neal tells Peter he was working with Hagen only because Hagen threatened Rebecca. In Hagen’s wallet they find a receipt with writing on the back from a café on the same block where Agent David Siegel was shot and killed. Peter and Neal figure out that the mysterious “Cooper3?” on the business card Siegel had on him indicated unit 3 in the Cooper building, across from the café. Breaking in pre-warrant (Neal uses breath spray to spot electronic trip wire; again with the hiding things in the clothes!), they find a massive amount of recon files- including full year-long files on every move Neal, Peter and Peter’s team made– as well as practice versions of Hagen’s “CH” initials. The kicker is when Neal finds the many photos of “Rebecca” in various guises, and then the corner of the room she was supposedly kidnapped and held captive in. Uh oh.
Alrighty! Let’s just say that if you’ve read my reviews this season, you know that I had no doubt Rebecca wasn’t who or what she said she was. I’m not sure if it was planned or not, but her every attempt at being a mousy, bookish “nerd” was never genuine and always forced. Every episode she was in I actually had to stop and wonder if the show creators did that on purpose so that the ultra-astute of us could get that wink and nod going in (that’s how obvious it felt to me from Day 1) but then I would expect them to want to surprise everyone with this whammy at the end. As soon as I saw Rebecca’s “escape” I knew she was holding herself captive. Call it the curse of the well-watched tv viewer: her prescription-less glasses, her insistence to have Neal tell her all the things and her clear manipulation to get access to their activities– all these were so obvious to me I had to wonder how Neal could have been swayed by it all. And recall I said Mozzie should have dug deeper into his cursory background check of her? Yeah, that.
I really liked the episode and it gets everyone on the same page now– all the viewers, Neal and Peter– so we can move together as a team to find out who “Rebecca” is and figure out her end game. Neal’s freshly wounded heart will provide the perfect opportunity for Peter to bring his buddy back from current arms-length into a bromance-full embrace, and for them to no doubt find a way to live with what they have done to, and for, each other.