White Collar returns this summer, but the new tagline is, “Will Neal Return?”
I say no. Not right away. At least not back to the White Collar Division in New York. For the first time in the history of White Collar I believe that we will see a cliffhanger drawn out for a few episodes. Let’s see what’s happened and take a guess at what direction Jeff Eastin and the White Collar writers want to and maybe should take. I have nothing to base this on except for the episodes that we’ve seen, with a focus on the events of the Season 3 finale.
By default, Neal had no choice but to run off with lil’ Leilana and Mozzie. The question is to where are they running? Europe? Paris specifically? This is still a satisfying end as a cliffhanger to season four. We can cheer that Mozzie and Neal felt like they’ve pulled a great escape. Peter just bought them enough time to get out of the country. Peter did not react when Diana told him that they left and that leads me to believe that Mozzie explained earlier to Neal that nearly half the Nazi treasure is out of the country, which they could live on for the rest of their lives. Now that’s forward thinking.
Still we watched Neal turn him down at his initial offer, saying he didn’t want to run anymore, that he had found a place where he had a good home, a good job, a best friend, and a family. But Agent Kramer became the new nemesis. Burned by his C.I., Kramer went after Peter Burke’s, for his own selfish reasons, disguised in the concerned welfare of his friend.
The Next Step
But I expect both Neal and Mozzie to lay low for a while in France. Why France? Well for one, the wine is good. Maybe they’d get in touch with Gordon Taylor who is planning a French getaway in the coming months and he’s a man who hires locally. It seems like a place that Alex (Gloria Votsis) would run off to also, giving Taylor another man for his big heist.
I realize this is a risky wager given that White Collar always moves right along with cliffhangers. It happened when Mozzie was shot, remedied in the mid-season return in Season 2. We saw a similar brisk resolution when Elizabeth was kidnapped, and when we were all left wondering who had stolen the U-Boat treasure for Neal. Also USA is not known for straying too far away from their formulas, especially when they’re winning with them in the ratings. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a change-up for a few episodes, a temporary reprieve for Neal that could help him value freedom even more.
And that convinces me more that Peter wanted this to happen; he went through the motions of recommending Neal so that he appeared to not know about Neal’s plan. As for what happens now, what does Peter love to do? As a job, he gets to do exactly what Neal does, but legally. So he has to pull off a con on Kramer, who’s become #1 bad guy and backed Neal into this desperate move. Now, as good as Kramer is, he never caught Neal. That’s one instance where the student has become the master.
A Confidence Game of Cat and Mouse
So… how can Neal flee and be allowed to work with Peter again? With his reputation on the line, Peter has to actively pursue Neal Caffrey again, because he’s been the only one to catch him, and has done so twice. Peter must capture Neal to prove he is the only one who can handle him and keep him away from Washington D.C. It would add a level of pursuit, a cat and mouse shake-up amongst friends, who still desire to work with one another. Mozzie was Neal’s best option to escape, how much he’ll influence Neal now that he’s free is a major question moving forward.
Maybe get to see White Collar work without a C.I. for a few episodes, and see Jones and Barrigan come forward perhaps and spearhead new cases. Meanwhile, we could see Peter on his best game to find Neal, and perhaps working against the clock and Kramer, who will likely be in pursuit of Neal as well. On the flip side we would see Neal working with Mozzie with other cons for a bit, just like in “Stealing Home.”
If this were to play out, I could see Neal doing one of two things. The con man in him gets recharged and he has enough fun before Peter tracks him down, even leaving Peter clues to find him (and Mozzie). Or Neal purposely botches jobs, or THE job with Taylor so that he’s caught. In the process, Peter gets Taylor too, one of the most heavily targeted con men.
Trust in Trust
Ernest Hemingway once said, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
Peter and Neal put a lot on the table and were sincere with where they stood before they had to hit the eject button. This isn’t just Eastin and company wanting to hit the reset button. The central theme of trust has been put to the ultimate test. Neal chose to run free as an outlaw and risk being put back in jail if caught. Peter would rather have him running for his life than working with Kramer in what would likely be inferior working conditions, while never being given a chance at freedom.
Is that selfish on Peter’s part? Professionally speaking, yes. Although it’s clear that Kramer was being selfish too while wanting to prove to Peter that criminals never reform. Maybe Art Crimes in D.C. needs help and that 94% conviction rate is something Kramer wanted for himself.
Who is the better friend to Peter? One is masquerading as a friend with selfish motives, while the other is sitting on a plane to where ever after saying those close to him speak well and testify for his freedom. The camera stayed on Bomer long at the end “Judgment Day.” There seemed to be a combination of contemplation, disbelief, and elation on his face. Was he portraying the look of a man who was feeling true freedom for the first time years and following what his friend told him to do while on the mound in Yankee Stadium–to live in the moment? No, what Peter didn’t realize is that Neal can’t think that way because he’s not a free man. He’s a con man, who is always thinking about his next step. To me it looked like Neal is already thinking of the next con–to get back into the White Collar.
Pictures Courtesy of Matt Bomer Fan