White Collar‘s fourth season has been dancing around the central theme of trust for much of the season with smiles on the outside when both Peter (Tim DeKay) and Neal (Matt Bomer) went behind each other’s backs, but the tension peaked at the end of last night’s episode, “Gloves Off” when Neal’s last link to his father, Sam (Treat Williams) left his home before it was ransacked by someone trying to track him down. Neal told Peter that his personal life is now off limits and stormed off, fuming from possibly losing the only link to the mystery of his father.
Before this scene, an intense boxing match between Neal and Peter went awry. It was supposed to be a choreographed con, as were both undercover, playing the parts of two associates trying to get proof of an insider trader ring involving white collar boxing. The winner was supposed to get insider information from Eric Dunham (Victor Webster), the head of the ring. But Sam contacted Neal before the match and told him that he had to leave town because Peter had triggered an investigation on him, which alerted someone in the FBI of his whereabouts. Neal had been keeping his meetings with Sam secret, and Peter thought he shared a betamax tape with a young Ellen (Sprague Grayden) explaining her knowledge about the case, absolving his father’s crimes was under lock and key (and of course the hunt is on for the key). Neal didn’t share the video, but Peter didn’t know that and thus we had another situation of half-truths, “if you just told me” arguments, and anger spilling into the square ring.
Neal dropped the rehearsed fight and instead threw punches of real vitriol at Peter and his boss retaliated back. The fun montage of Peter, Neal, Mozzie (Willie Garson) and Jones (Sharif Atkins) working on the choreographed fight was at least a distraction of the storm that was brewing. Too bad it couldn’t last. Peter eventually knocked Neal down and they closed the case on Dunham, but their friendship appears to be irrevocably damaged. However nothing on White Collar ever lasts very long. See all things related to Mozzie (his shooting, his anger towards Neal, and his vow to stay away from the mainland in hiding.)
One of the more frustrating elements of Season 4 has been the bigger arc of Neal digging into his past and the truth behind his father, since returning from his brief escape to the tropical islands. I guess I expected Neal to be able to move forward with his life with so much that has propelled him forward (realizing he no longer needs to be criminal, that he has a strong and support system of friends), yet he has taken several steps backward to reach for this answer, forever attached to the anchor that his father may or may not have been a murderer and a corrupt cop, like he was destined to be a crook based on DNA. He was unable to trust any of his circle whether it be Peter, Elizabeth or even Mozzie. This isn’t as compelling as Neal avenging his girlfriend’s death, or looking for the music box, and hiding the stolen Nazi treasure. Those stories appeared to move everything forward, where as this season has been dragging along.
***POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD***
That is until we get the hint from Ellen’s video message to Neal that his father may still be out there. It has me believing that Sam isn’t who he says he is, because all the secrecy clouding his true identity, Sam wanting to stay off the FBI grid makes be believe that Sam is actually… Neal’s father. I have no proof of this, it’s just suspicions of Sam and Ellen never being at the same place to confirm one’s identity and that Ellen was so cryptic about this one other cop who Neal could trust. How could it not be Neal’s dad? We’re led to believe that Sam would do drastic things when Peter dropped in on him, but because he didn’t kill Peter leads me to believe even more that he is Neal’s long lost father. Neal only remember so much as a child, was raised under the witness protection agency and was probably told other lies to protect Sam’s real identity. There were no pictures or maybe there was one that Ellen shared with him. Regardless that would be a plausible direction we’re heading to, but this is just my best guess.
***SPOILER ZONE FINISHED***
For the first time this season, Neal brought it all together by blaming Peter’s investigation into Ellen and Sam as the trigger for Ellen’s murder and Sam’s sudden disappearance. It’s hard not to agree with Neal on this matter. Finally, this father storyline was going somewhere and if I what I believe is true, then that would be something worth moving forward to. The cons have all been fun, clever (The Rebecca Mader guest spot and the return of Alex and Banksy-Bomer were brilliant strokes of genius) but something has been missing in this season if I’m being honest and I think it’s that feeling that we’re just plodding along without anything to move towards to. My suspicions would certainly give that chapter in Neal’s life some closure, but we’ll see if that’s where the mid-season finale is headed to. How that would affect the final six episodes is something we’ll have to explore after next week’s finale.
What would be left is repairing this rift between Peter and Neal. The Sam issue, which comes to a head in the mid-season finale seems like the one thing that could douse this flame. The problems between two good friends are often the things that look like positive things. They trusted each other so much that when each one decided to withhold any type of information, they took it personal to the point of mistrusting the other. Neal felt like he needed to be secret and he already laid out all the rules concerning Ellen, Sam, and his past but Peter felt the one way he could help is to get involved. This is the one hurdle, the one final part of Neal’s life that he wants some control over, when all along he’s been out of control, led from one clue to another.
As I mentioned above, it’s doubtful any tension between Peter and Neal is everlasting; any conflict on White Collar has the life-span of a New York minute, but perhaps this does alter the relationship between Peter and Neal some, maybe we don’t have this open book exchange, with Elizabeth coming over with pistachio gelato or Mozzie confiding with The Suit without Neal’s knowledge. I’m still a little surprised by that last one. It was all getting a bit too comfortable again at the White Collar division and that means something or someone needed to knock some sense into everyone and remind each other who they are.
What do you think, is Peter and Neal’s friendship down for the count? What are your suspicions about Sam? Have you enjoyed Season 4 or felt like something is a little… off? Share your thoughts below!