[SPOILER heavy – proceed with caution]
We’re down to the penultimate episode of what has turned out to be a very unpredictable season of White Collar. With Marsha Thomason’s Agent Berrigan missing for a good chunk of it due to her pregnancy, Tiffani Thiessen’s Elizabeth Burke vacillating between staunch supporter of Peter and Neal’s partnership and her sudden bout of jealousy and disapproval of Peter’s job, not to mention Peter’s own indecision on his feelings about Neal, I can say I’m actually relieved the end is near. Of the season, mind you. Note: at the time this review was published, no season 6 renewal has been confirmed, so it’s dealer’s choice if this will be the season or series finale next week.
This episode begins and ends with Neal expressing his wishes to be off monitor. In fact, he reminds Peter that the reason Peter is being asked to go to D.C. for a promotion is because their case closure rate is so high. “Their” being the operative word. Basically, if Peter can reap the benefits of their 5 years of service together, so should Neal. Peter has his doubts (as if he wouldn’t) and the perfect expression of mild incredulity on Tim DeKay’s face is worth a second look. You’d think that after all the trouble – perceived or real – that Neal’s been in this season he’d be crazy to think of even asking for early release, but his blow from the Rachel fiasco has apparently tempered any conceit and he certainly seems humble and genuine in his request. If this is his first, gentle attempt at cutting those strings he mentioned earlier in the season, then good on him. I’m happy Peter didn’t shoot him down right away, so it’s a good sign that he’s willing to listen to Neal on this.
This episode cleverly intertwines the Rachel story arc with a case of the week. While boxing all of the evidence from Rachel’s apartment, Neal and Peter hear one of her burner phones ring. The voice mail indicates she’s being called upon for a job. When Peter forms an idea to have an agent go in as Rachel, and Neal notes this isn’t “Some Like It Hot”, I really didn’t stop my mind from going there. (Oh, come on, Matt Bomer would be beautiful in a dress and heels, admit it). Thankfully, Peter instead heads to Diana’s apartment to bring her up to speed. I’m so glad Marsha Thomason is back! She really balances out the team (Peter, Neal, Agent Clinton Jones and Diana) and having her come in and take on the job impersonating Rachel is a great way to bring her back in style. Especially since it shows that becoming a single mom didn’t dull the edge of her wit or skill; Agent Berrigan is still as fierce as always. I’m not going to lie to you, Tim DeKay holding that baby was gif-worthy. Also, that baby is all levels of cute.
I’ll say it again, this season owes so much to Mozzie (and Willie Garson) it’s hard to even quantify it. When many of the characters – even Neal and Peter – seemed to contradict themselves in every other episode (sometimes in different scenes of the same episode) Mozzie has remained constant and delightful. This episode is no exception. As Neal reminds Moz that with Rachel in prison, they’re the only ones looking for the diamond, the enthusiasm from Mozzie as he imagines building his own “illegitimate empire” is infectious, especially while Neal smiles warmly at his BFF throughout. Mozzie also shines later in the episode as he manages to get himself the job of babysitting baby Theo, and melting our hearts with how cute they are together. Seriously, that baby is awesome.
Diana makes the call to meet with Rachel’s potential client, but they all realize that in order for her to pull it off, she’ll need intel from Rachel. Which of course means a trip for Rachel – orange jumpsuit and chains – to the Fed’s interrogation room. Okay, we all know I was ambivalent of the character of Rebecca, mainly because she came across to me immediately as a phony; I never felt she was what she appeared to be. The wispy voice, the stuttering, the wide-eyed innocence, the thing with pushing up her glasses…well, you get the point. But, I have to say I really, really like cold blooded Rachel. Bridget Regan plays cool and deadly Rachel much more convincingly than innocent and enthusiastic Rebecca. And it shows as she sits face to face with Peter, unwilling to help with their case (and casually mentioning she could have killed him any number of times, but didn’t for Neal’s sake) unless she can speak with Neal. I was wondering if Neal would fall victim to the previously noted inconsistency of character, and that he’d somehow plead with Rachel to repent or ask why she did the things she did. But to his credit, Neal went in completely resolute, and even though you could see he was still reeling from her betrayal, he met her play for play with calculated indifference.
As the case continues, Diana makes the meet with Conrad Worth, a suspect in an SEC investigation that went nowhere, who wants her to steal a thumb drive from an R&D facility run by his former hedge fund partner, Ian Dybek. Alerted by the Feds that his company might be probed, Dybek takes home the drive, which holds an algorithm that could crash the stock market, and thus leads us to one of my favorite scenes of the episode. With the owners out, Neal breaks into Dybek’s bedroom safe (without gloves again, tsk, tsk), but Dybek’s mistress enters the house, apparently for their scheduled morning romp. Neal thinks fast, removes his clothes and dons one of Dybek’s robes. Thanks to director DeKay for giving us the zipper moment and for having Neal lying on the bed, silk robed, leg exposed, as he feigns surprise and explains to the mistress that he’s Mrs. Dybek’s “mister.” It’s a given that most of us were expecting/hoping that Neal would say he was there for Dybek, as well, but that would cause too much hyperventilating in the fandom, I guess.
I have to give credit to writers Alexandra McNally and Mark Lafferty. It’s notable that when Peter addresses Diana for getting (stealing) the thumb drive without a warrant, she reminds him that he’s let Neal cross lines for years. This is echoed later when Peter admits to Neal that he’s often allowed and encouraged him to break the rules – the law – and that hasn’t helped Neal on the path to reformation. That Peter finally concedes that by doing so he let Neal’s actions, sanctioned or not, define Neal’s character shouldn’t be glossed over lightly. It’s been one of the contentions that the fans, me included, have had issue with this season (actually from the season premiere): Neal’s been told repeatedly he’s a criminal and he can’t change, but at the same time he’s been directed by the Feds for years to cross the lines of the law. A clear case of “do as I say, not as I do.”
They nab Worth, but the sting is almost in jeopardy when he receives a text saying Rebecca is in prison, causing him to question Diana’s identity. The team discovers it came from the corrections facility, likely Rachel herself. Adding another curveball, the office phones all start to ring simultaneously, and we find it’s because they’re being alerted that Rachel has escaped prison. Although this didn’t surprise me, I do have to wonder how lax our prison system is if people like Rachel can escape so quickly.
Finally, when Mozzie discovers that the images from the Codex are most likely numbers (baby Theo’s mobile ornaments are blocks with numbers – Latin, Greek, etc. – and that gives Mozzie the idea) he rushes back to Neal’s. Again, it’s not surprising that as he leaves a voice mail with his new info, we pan to find Rachel in the shadows on the balcony. Since she was there for Neal, one assumes, this obviously changes her tactic. Now she knows Mozzie is the key to finding the diamond. This sets up the finale, with Rachel on the loose and Mozzie in her grasp. In retrospect, I would have enjoyed the arc more up to now if she was revealed as a villain sooner, as I prefer the team to be fighting the same enemies. But I get that the idea was to show us Neal falling in love with Rebecca (he’s been in love before, so this is arguable) so that the deceit has more impact. I just hope the dénouement fits the buildup.
Without clear indication of a Season 6, I’ll only end by saying I hope the finale at least leaves Peter and Neal with some much needed equilibrium, and some happier times ahead for our favorite Conman.