This past week’s Valentine’s episode of White Collar had everyone pairing up and square dancing in honor of their Bonnie & Clyde criminals. A love struck and symbolic couple went on a crime spree and the Burkes (Tim Dekay and Tiffani Thiessen) are at the wrong place at the wrong time. Neal (Matt Bomer) and Sara (Hilarie Burton) get back in the saddle, and Mozzie (Willie Garson)? Well, he got to walk Satchmo a lot. While it’s easy to come down on “Shoot the Moon” because there wasn’t some criminal mastermind or because of the lighter tone, just remember that every episodes doesn’t have to feed into the bigger arc. Sometimes, we can enjoy White Collar simply for the fun escapes. “Shoot the Moon” gave us one of those weeks, a necessary interlude as we move closer the the White Collar Season 4 finale.
Here are five focus points to think about as we prepare to close out the fourth season.
1. Neal had prison groupies?
Of course Neal had groupies in jail. This guy had is own personal fan club in the White Collar division, and if Joe Carroll can have a cult following (in Fox’s The Following) it should come to no surprise that ladies who subscribe to “Mugshot Monthly” have been scribbling love letters to America’s smoothest criminal, Neal Caffrey. It was cute to see Sara jealous though. Even Jones and Barrigan had to laugh at that, and usually they like to laugh at Neal’s expense.
2. The Future of Neal and Sara in Doubt
Sara’s up for the London branch of Sterling Bosch and it looks like Sara’s going to be phased out of the show. I understand that she has a world of haters out there, but I disagree with all of them. I found Sara to be the perfect companion for Neal. She’s not as squeaky clean as when she introduced herself, which gives her things to relate to Neal. But like Peter, there are legal ways to use those talents and while she indulged in Neal’s vices (what women could resist forever, honestly?) she kept Neal level-headed, and provided him with hope for a crime-free future. Burton’s been pulled back to a guest star this season, but I found her inclusion to the cast in Season 2 a great move. Her departure would be a letdown. However, if Sara passes up or is passed up for the London job, then she should be brought back in the fold of the show more regularly again, since it’s clear Sara and Neal still have feelings for each other.
3. Diana and Sara’s new Dos
Don’t think we would let Agent Barrigan’s big hairdo slip by us. We’re not sure if Barrigan looked right leading a White Collar operation, but she sure looked like she should’ve been modeling a couture dress. We like being able to see actors and characters break out of their uniform look; it was just a bit too fabulous for Diana’s typical, practical work style. As for Sara, someone in makeup and hair must have had some serious love One Tree Hill love because that’s all I could think of while seeing her as a blond. Make note: Hilarie Burton is drop dead gorgeous in red.
4. It’s Time to Drop the Charade
Let’s stop hoping for Peter and Neal to let their guard down and embrace each other without waiting for the other to knife them in the back. For a guy who says he’s trying to get Neal to break bad, Peter sure does dangle a lot of carrots in front of him. Having Ellen’s IRS papers there for Neal and Mozzie to find, only fueled Neal’s pursuit of the truth to clear his father, but also furthered Peter’s efforts without endangering himself. Does that satisfy Elizabeth’s worries? Yes. Does this encourage Neal to go behind Peter’s back? Absolutely.
Some may wonder if this is Peter waving the white flag and knowing he can’t stop Neal pursuing a personal mission. Perhaps. At times this relationship runs hot and cold to the point of frustration. Some days Peter confides in Neal with his most personal concerns and then other times has Jones tailing him to stay three steps ahead. Neal has criminal in his blood but some of what he and Mozzie do is just simple investigation. The next time these two start squawking about “no more secrets” to each other, I’ll be off in the corner closing my eyes, plugging my ears, saying, “La-la-la-la…”
5. Will The Real Dynamic Duo Step Forward?
Agents Jones and Barrigan were in the background this week and our criminal duo of Oz (Jackson Rathbone, Twilight) and Penny (Jessica McNamee) was doomed once we saw them trying to break the glass of the perfume bottle. Neal and Sara sizzled but could only be credited with an assist. This was a Peter and Elizabeth episode. They are perceived to living a boring lifestyle (they drink boxed wine) but were cool under pressure. White Collar is about the confidence game, and who has performed surprisingly consistent under stress but Elizabeth?
We realize she’s used to fantastical ways at times, especially this season. But she rarely flinches whenever she has to perform. Together with Peter, they don’t need to draw up a plan, or talk in shorthand. They know how to pick up where the other leaves off, what will further the cause, and put the other at ease. We said before that Elizabeth should probably leave the event planning behind because she’s been involved with so many operations but we’re a little surprised as to how much she’s been a part of the con. She left the big breadcrumb behind with her earring, she communicated with Penny in a way neither Peter or Neal could not, and she also warmed Oz up by offering to help cook for Penny. We’ve spent a great deal of time (maybe too much) on Neal’s father, that it’s fair that Peter and his home life be given the spotlight for a few episodes. I think the most important thing about these Peter and Elizabeth scenes is that they now know that there is a risk to getting too close to a criminal, and perhaps it’s okay for Neal to take some of the risk when Peter doesn’t have to.
White Collar is many things but a one note procedural is not one of them. This show knows when to lighten up the tone and has fun when it does so. With two episodes left it’s time to ramp up again and get back to business and close this story out with Neal’s father and his shady history, find Ellen’s files and see what kind of cliffhanger is going to carry us into Season 5. Pablo Schreiber (Lights Out) guest stars as a world class forger who is a match for Neal in Tuesday’s episode, “The Original.”