White Collar - Season 5They say the truth hurts. When ASAC Peter Burke learns the truth about his friend and CI, Neal Caffrey, in this episode of White Collar, he would likely agree. 

[SPOILER heavy – proceed with caution]

Let me note that as a rule, I don’t read other published reviews of the show until after I’ve submitted my own. I do this partly to keep my head clear and focus on the elements I feel are important and relevant to me, and partly to avoid having another reviewer’s observations or opinions influence my own. I also don’t get advance copies of the program, so it’s harder to keep off the internet and away from those other reviews than you’d imagine. Really hard.

That said, this episode finally feels more like what I had hoped from the season, and with any luck, the pace won’t let up in the 4 episodes remaining.  As viewers we’ve seen a lot, but we don’t really know a lot, and although that keeps us curious, it also keeps us frustrated. Well, me anyway. So it’s no surprise that this week’s story finally focuses on the season arc, and to the delight of some and dismay of others, it also addresses Peter’s reaction to Neal’s actions.

We start with Neal and Rebecca Lowe in bed, the morning after their first night together and Neal seems as smitten as ever, maybe more. He admits to her by way of pillow talk that he’s mixed in with some bad people (without naming Hagen) and that’s why he needed Chapter 13 of the Codex. My gut says don’t trust Rebecca, so the fact that she’s interested to know if Neal thinks the original pages of the Codex can be found- to be reunited with the rest of the book– makes me wonder if she’s sounding him out for her own agenda, and wants those pages herself. If so, then I’d wager she’s working on her own against Neal, and against Hagen, which I sort of like. Also, she’s not happy when he says he wants to keep her out of his plans for the window for her own good. If I was trying to get close to Neal and the object of my desire (granted, Neal would be the object of my desire), I’d play the hurt card, too. While she goes to get dressed for work, enter Mozzie. Dear, Mozzie. I’m going to use the line, “you showed her your anklet” as a euphemism for sex now, just so you know.

Meanwhile, Peter and Jones get a hit on the FBI watch list on one of the Welsh gold coins that Neal stole for Hagen back in the season opener. Peter tells Neal about it, and that he’s not going to let this lead slip away and he’ll stop at nothing to find the thief behind it.  Neal looks rightly unsettled. In a meeting with his team, Peter instructs them to hunt down possible fences for the coins. Knowing that Peter might actually put the pieces together this time, Neal tracks down and meets with Federal Prosecutor Andrew Dawson, whom Hagen bribed to accept the fake confession from James Bennett that ultimately got Peter off the hook and out of prison. Neal tells him everything – his connection to Hagen and that he stole the coins– in order to set up a “mutually assured destruction” to motivate Dawson into giving Neal the name of the fence. It’s clear that if Neal doesn’t get to the fence first, Peter will get to him and it’ll be checkmate. Unfortunately for him, Peter has met with Mozzie and by knowing what buttons to push on him, already knows the fence in question is Karl Dekker, who works out of the flower district. Peter runs into Neal at the garden center, who does what he can to stall Peter long enough to let Mozzie sneak in to warn Dekker to flee before the Feds bust him. Peter figures out that Mozzie was involved with Dekker’s escape (the classic shoe swapping ruse), he’s just not sure how. I know a lot of viewers are probably not pleased with Peter’s hardline, full-speed ahead approach to this case, but to his credit, he’s finally getting a break on one of the cases he’s worried Neal might be involved with. Yes, worried. I know he’s being a bit of a grumpy stickler this time, but he’s no doubt equal parts worried that Neal is involved and hoping to hell he’s not.

White Collar - Season 5

Neal and Mozzie have devised a plan to steal the Mosconi window: They break it from across the street and then wait for the repairmen to come and remove it, at which point they distract the repairmen and take it themselves. While they meet at Neal’s to scheme out the details, Rebecca unexpectedly shows up. In yet another unnatural move, she immediately notices that the sketch on the easel wasn’t there that morning and without hesitation flips the page over to see their schematic of the window in the Masonic temple. Who does that? Someone who is conning a con and doesn’t care for subtlety, that’s who. If she’s the baddie that I get the feeling she is, then she knows she’s running out of time and needs to get herself involved with Neal and Mozzie’s caper, and does by playing to Neal’s emotions. (Don’t get me started on the howls of rage that will rise up in the fandom if she really does trample on his vulnerable heart.) She starts to tease that now he has everything he wanted- Chapter 13, her Mosconi insight, even her– but pauses. She implies that since he does have everything he wanted, he must just be playing with her. He’s been using her even up to now. If I recall, she was the one who locked the door the night before, when he confessed he was a criminal, and no one forced her to, um, get a look at his anklet. (See what I did there?). Even Neal seems incredulous at this implied accusation, but again his soft, warm heart gets in the way. He lets slip the plan for stealing the window, including when and how. Suddenly, she’s super excited and wants to help! I think I missed something here: One second she’s resentfully excusing herself because she’s feeling used, and the next second she’s practically begging to help him? I’m sure we’re supposed to believe it’s just her utter, blind obsession with all things Mosconi that let her immediately forget her hurt and instead jump at the chance to assist, but it was so mercurial it never had a chance to feel anything but wrong.

While Peter is discussing his suspicions with El (who seems to thankfully have returned to her pre-inexplicably jealous-wife days), he tracks Neal again to the Temple. As it happens, Neal, Mozzie and “Becca” (as Neal is calling her now) are all three at the Temple as they play out their heist, with Rebecca playing decoy to the repairmen. Neal gets the window down (to my favorite “Neal is doing his thing” music) and they all skip away, scot-free! Well, okay, not scot-free, but Neal and Becca do almost start skipping away. However, Neal sees Peter at the scene, so he makes sure to meet with him and uses a tasty cronut from a bakery nearby (you know that place, which shall not be named) as an excuse for why Peter’s tracked him there so often. And yeah, Peter’s buying it about as much as we are.

White Collar - Season 5

Peter plays what I think is a nice ploy when he goes to Neal’s apartment later that day. He essentially accuses Neal of stealing the gold coins, simply because there was time when Neal was alone at the firehouse (Peter is smart guys, please give him that). He had asked Jones to call him at 7:30 sharp, and when he does he makes Neal think they have Dekker (and thus the obvious confession to follow). This is the setup that does it for Neal and he confesses to Peter that he stole the coins. Peter unravels and really gives it to him this time. None of the head shaking, quiet frustration that usually comes with Peter finding out Neal had a hand in one of their cases, but real anger. I’ve seen some feedback in social media that fans are not pleased that Peter doesn’t see Neal’s side of it, and you know what, I’m actually with Peter on this. How many times has Peter looked the other way for Neal, or has helped by barely walking a grey line to fix a mess Neal’s gotten into, all for the sake of keeping him out of prison? Yes, I know Neal stole the coins to keep Peter out of prison, but as it’s been said often enough, Peter would find out. Peter was already putting the pieces together, and as he told Neal when they found the first coin, a criminal always messes up and it comes back to bite them. Neal should know by now that Peter is a “pull the bandage off quickly” kind of guy, and that as soon as he started having suspicions– like when he told Neal he knew about the FBI pen and was not letting go of the missing money from the Dr. Summers case– Neal should have taken the chance to yank it off then. Peter was giving him so many outs, dropping so many hints, and now that Neal finally admits it, no wonder Peter’s pissed. It only adds to the fire– and likely Peter’s shame- that Neal explains he did it for Peter, to keep him from indictment and losing his job and career, that Dawson took a bribe (Neal was careful to never mention Hagen in this, letting Peter think the coins and the bribe were all his idea) and that he forged James’ voice confession. As Peter is about to arrest him, Neal gives him pause when he unashamedly declares he did the right thing, and that Peter needs to think about what this means to Elizabeth, too.

Peter speaks to El and tells her what he knows. He says that since he knows about the crime, as an FBI agent (recently promoted, too) he feels he’s living a lie now. El reminds him that he’s innocent of the murder of Senator Pratt and that basically if this is the only way to keep his name clear, then so be it. She sides with Neal, but allows Peter time to come to that conclusion himself.

White Collar - Season 5

The Feds actually do find Dekker, but rather than lean into him about the gold coin fencing, Peter lets Jones take him down for the arms dealing he’s got on the side which they busted him for while waiting for his return to the flower market. Although this gives Neal a reprieve, now that Peter knows what he knows (remember, he has no idea Hagen is involved yet) he goes off to give Dawson an ultimatum to return the coins and resign.

Neal and Mozzie are trying to figure out if the answer to the window mystery is in the window pane or the glass when Rebecca shows up (her timing is pretty convenient) at Neal’s place. They discover that the blue glass piece is a decoder when they see Mosconi’s signature through it on another piece that appeared invisible before. They also realize that the decoder glass won’t work on the copy of the Codex pages and that they need to get a hold of the original. They end up telling Rebecca about Hagen and his hold over Neal, and plan to negotiate the glass for the evidence video Hagen has of Neal stealing the coins.

Peter later tells Neal that Dawson resigned and that things will change with him and Neal. Granted, he told that to Neal in the season opener, when the gold coins were first stolen and that resulted in a new handler. We have no idea what this new change will be yet from Peter’s perspective, but when he tells Neal he understands why he did what he did– because he’s a criminal and can’t help himself– we get another echo from the season opener. But from the look on Neal’s face, this time he’s not so much hurt by Peter’s assertions as he is acerbic about it. Neal agrees that, yes, things will change, and from the look on his face, we know he’s thinking that it’s about time to cut those puppet strings he mentioned to Mozzie in the Dr. Summers case. I hope Peter finds his moral balance again, to be honest. I don’t mind it if Neal swings between active cons and being the Fed’s best CI, but it does bother me when we’re supposed to just accept that Peter– the bastion of law and justice and fighter for the good guys– can forgive and forget here. Everyone seems to think Peter’s over-reacting, but he can’t be true to himself if he lets Neal’s good deed go unpunished.

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