C: Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. And boy is Neal flattered when, in this week’s episode of White Collar, he discovers that he’s not only featured on the syllabus of a college criminology course, but somebody in the class seems to be copying his most famous (alleged!) crimes. He’s so chuffed, in fact, he’s driving Peter crazy. Not that that’s unusual.
M: His amusement with it was, in a word, fabulous. The giddy grinning, trying to fake-hide it while making a point of letting people know? Just great. That’s one of the areas where this show is so fun to watch. It wasn’t until they banged out that happy-Neal-annoyed-but-impressed-Peter interaction so well a few times in this episode that I realized it had been missing for all of this season and some of last.
C: Good point. Sad Neal was sort of necessary to the plot, but giddy Neal is much more fun to watch, especially in those interactions with Peter. There was a touch of that in the season opener, though – when they were bantering about what a good bank robbery team they’d make.
M: And now, on to the nitty-gritty of this episode…
C: It all begins with the news of a famous painting being stolen from a pop art exhibition, a piece “entitled” Untitled No. 2. “It’s worth four million; you’d think, for that kind of money, he’d have bothered to come up with a title,” says Peter.
M: Loved that, one of many great lines in the episode.
C: It was a quick slash-and-grab. I can’t tell you how much I shudder at the idea of cutting a work of art out of its frame!
M: Agreed; however, it is an ingenious way to steal art. The primary way of determining if a piece of art is a forgery, as I learned from The Thomas Crown Affair, is to compare the “edges”, the part that is hidden by the frame. Since it’s hidden, the only way to forge it would be to take the picture out of the frame, so you know you either have the original, or someone who had possession of it. If you cut the edges off, and create a brilliant forgery (which was not done in this episode), the difference would be virtually indecipherable. But I digress.
C: As you do so frequently. Yet you haven’t strayed too far from the point, because before there’s even time for the loot to have been smuggled out of the country, Peter and the FBI gang hear news of half a dozen sales of the very same painting, from Europe to Dubai. Forgeries! This isn’t just a theft, it’s also a con. Recognizing this as a trick Neal once pulled, Peter is suspicious of Mozzie, but – in one of the biggest laughs of the episode – Neal points out that when the crime involves cutting a painting off a wall, Mozzie’s height exempts him from suspicion!
M: Great line number 2! And they threw in more of Mozzie’s hilarious attempts at cloak and dagger stuff, which are just great comedy.
C: He was in fact up to something, though not theft, and I loved that it involved more elaborately planned, paranoid rendezvous in the park – this time with Alex Hunter. That’s right, Neal’s former fence is back, still pretty obviously carrying a torch for him. This episode establishes that someone’s out to get her, and probably Neal too, for some unknown reason to do with the music box. I’m curious about where the show’s going with Alex. After a decent mourning period for tepid Kate, will Neal begin to play the field? Will a significant new woman enter his life? Or will they up the role of Alex as a potential flame?
M: I think Alex is a suitable romantic pursuit for Neal. She’s devious, and at times a match for him, and won’t just let him in but will make him work. It’s fun when he has to work for things.
C: Which isn’t a circumstance he finds himself in often! But back to the A-plot. Neal isn’t the only team member with a chance to show off his expertise in this episode. Jones – who doesn’t quite have a personality yet, but the writers seems to be making a little more effort – gets to play the mark in a staged attempt to draw in the art thieves, which he seems to enjoy thoroughly. And Peter (coached hilariously by Mozzie) gets to play an enforcer from the Detroit mafia and scare the pants off the felonious criminology professor, played by Aiden Quinn. “Tell him you’ll cut off his hands if he doesn’t pay up,” Mozzie says into the earpiece. “Wouldn’t want… anything to happen to your hands, Professor,” Peter growls menacingly. “I said ‘cut off his hands’!” protests Mozzie. Gotta love him.
M: Another great exchange. The “I’ll start with your thumbs” line was brilliantly delivered, too. As for Aidan Quinn… wow did he look bad. I only recognized him in the preview attached to last week’s ep in that “I know that guy, who is it?” way, and I know full well who Aidan Quinn is. When I saw his name in the opening credits I knew it was him, but wow.
C: I did the same. “Who is that? I know I know him…”
M: As for the plot, the teacher being the ringleader was sooooo obvious, as was the cocky student getting knocked down a peg by Neal and Alex in the bar. Yet, despite their obviousness, they made it work because the people involved were engaging and entertaining.
C: Agreed. This episode didn’t try to surprise us with whodunit; the fun was in seeing how they’d catch the bad guys.
M: As for the over-arching mystery with the music box, I like where they’re going with it. Not completely pitting Peter and Neal against each other, but giving them separate pieces of the mystery is fun.
C: Neal has the key, Peter has the lock… how long before they put the pieces together? And what will they find?
M: At this point I have no clue who’s behind the plot, and while that’s a good thing, they’re going to need to start giving us possibilities soon so we can make guesses.
C: White Collar writers, I hope you’re listening. We’re gonna need some better clues than a ludicrous photoshopped Frankenstein’s monster face, and soon! But for now… as usual… I’m hooked.