Sunday, December 13, 2009

White Collar 1.06: "Free Fall"

“I’ll admit I’ve done a lot of things in my life I’m not proud of. No…no that’s not true. I’m proud of most of them. But what I’m about to do today? This is going to be good.”


It’s been over a week, and I still haven’t quite worked out my feelings about this episode of White Collar. The final scene was certainly shocking, but I vacillate between thinking it was exciting and brought new life to the show and thinking it was a hackey gimmick. Either way, it definitely made me take notice and think. We got to see a lot of silly Neal antics in this episode, which I certainly enjoyed. Also appreciated was the fact that there was actually a legitimate reason Neal might go to jail if the case wasn’t solved- he was the prime suspect.

The episode opens with Neal and Mozzie walking to breakfast and talking about how Neal learned to that man holding Kate captive is with the FBI. It turns out Mozzie is a total conspiracy theory nut which is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the fun is interrupted by a call from Peter. There’s been a jewelry heist at a high end clothing store, and Neal and Peter are on the case. Before Peter leaves for the crime scene, Elizabeth provides us with a little exposition. As a big promotional event, the clothing store is displaying the world’s most valuable pink diamond.

A visit to the store confirms that the pink diamond (set in a gaudy, platinum necklace) is indeed the issue. The shop owner believes that the diamond they’re currently displaying may actually be a fake. She wants to keep it on the down-low because the promotion is so important for the store. Peter is pretty exasperated when he sees why the shop owner suspects a forgery, though. There’s security video of a masked man hamming it up and entering the vault. Something’s been stolen? You think? Neal confirms that the diamond is indeed fake. And he has a little fun with the model wearing the diamond in the process. Which is to be expected, since it’s Neal.

Peter and Neal have an unpleasant surprise when they get back to the office. The Office of Professional Responsibility (the FBI’s Internal Affairs unit) is in town, and Fowler, the head OPR agent, wants to talk to Peter. Fowler suspects Neal of the jewelry heist. Only a few NYPD and FBI guys even knew the details of the store’s promotion, so it must have been an inside job. Even worse for Neal, data from his GPS tracking anklet is missing from the night of the heist. It’s not that the GPS tracker itself was tampered with, but the database where the tracker’s information was stored was hacked.

Meanwhile, Neal is putting together his own list of suspects. He’s thinking of everybody he knows with the skills to pull off the heist and, more importantly, make the fake diamond. One suspect stands out above the rest- a man by the name of Adrian Tulane.

Neal makes list of people capable of making forgery and pulling off heist- Adrian Tulane. Peter and Neal visit Tulane, who lives quite the lavish lifestyle. Neal is starstruck, which is quite entertaining. He tells Tulane, “I love your alleged work. Big fan.”

The visit isn’t all that productive, otherwise. Tulane produces plane tickets that supposedly prove he was in Europe while the heist was going down.

After the failed interview of Tulane, Peter and Neal both end up investigating each other, in a way. Peter remembered that Neal once told him that he included a signature in some forged bonds he created. Peter wants Jones to look at the bonds under polarized light to see the signature and compare it to the forged diamond. Meanwhile, Mozzie has pulled files on most of the FBI crew, including Lauren (which gets a bit of a protest out of Neal) and Fowler. One thing that’s interesting is that I don’t believe he pulls a file on Peter.

The FBI crew is meeting at the office when the unfortunate results from Jones’ investigation come in. There is a small “NC” inscribed on the fake diamond, just like a small “NC” that can be seen on the forged bond under polarized light. It’s nice, and interesting, given the shocker at the end of the episode, to see that Peter is still looking out for Neal, even when it seems like Neal has betrayed his trust. Peter wants to be the one to make the arrest, and he puts his jacket over Neal’s handcuffed wrists in an attempt to minimize embarrassment as he is walked out of the office with all his coworkers staring.

By far the best thing about the “Neal is being framed and gets arrested again” plot is that Mozzie acts as his lawyer. Mozzie’s explanation for how he became a lawyer (he has an online JD from University of Phoenix) is completely incorrect (only California will allow graduates of online, and therefore unaccredited by the ABA, law schools to sit for the bar exam, and White Collar takes place in New York), the result is amusing enough for me to overlook that problem. Mozzie manages to get the judge to order the FBI to turn over all of their records on Neal, and Mozzie catches Fowler shreading some documents before the FBI complies with the order. Mozzie probably should have gone all Rule 37 on the FBI after that one (asking for sanctions for not complying with discovery), but he does at least recover the documents, now in pieces. Neal manages to put the documents back together and realizes that they are transcripts of phone calls between himself and Peter. He also wants Mozzie to buy a bakery, which seems kind of random at the time but eventually makes sense.

Neal concocts quite the elaborate plan to escape from custody yet again. The bakery he instructed Mozzie to buy is right below the Judge’s chambers. He also makes sure the air conditioning in the Judge’s chambers is on the fritz. Neal then tells the judge that he’s prepared to confess, but because he’ll be naming names, he can’t do it in open court. Instead of actually confessing once he’s in the Judge’s chambers, he jumps out the open window on to the reinforced canopy outside his new bakery. Peter, out on the street, sees this go down. Neal gives him a “well what did you expect?” shrug, then runs off and jumps into a van. Police chase down the van, but Neal’s not in it. Peter knows Neal must have only been in the van for a few seconds before escaping via a pre-loosened floor panel. I love how smarmy and full of life Neal is throughout this sequence. He’s doing what he does best, and it’s a lot of fun to watch.

Another thing I find interesting and entertaining about this episode is that when Neal is in trouble, he looks to the Burke family for help. He calls Elizabeth first after his daring escape, and she sneaks him in to her house. Peter’s not thrilled about this when he gets home and sees Neal there, but he’s willing to give Neal a minute to explain himself. Neal does more than that- he exposes the fact that OPR has been bugging Peter’s phones, and he also shows Peter the picture of Kate and the man with the ring.

Peter has Jones distract Fowler’s OPR goons (who had been pretty blatantly following Peter) so he could meet up with Neal at the clothing boutique and they could figure out how the thief pulled off the heist. They notice that a fluorescent light panel by the vault entrance is flickering, and it wasn’t flickering on the security video. Prying away the very loose panel leads to a prohibition tunnel, and the exit of the tunnel just happens to be watched by a security camera. The video from the camera reveals that the real thief is indeed Tulane. Fowler is not thrilled to see that Peter has continued the investigation, and he sits in on part of Peter’s interrogation of Tulane. Tulane intimates that somebody else was his benefactor and gave him all the information necessary to complete the crime. As he says this, he shakes his head at Fowler.

Even though all the loose ends aren’t tied up, Neal’s name has been cleared at least, and during a little celebration at the FBI office, Neal gets a call from Kate. Kate still won’t say what her captor wants, which seems mighty suspicious to me. When he gets home, Neal finds out that Mozzie’s got a theory based on what he’s learned from the FBI files. Fowler and his team had a hotel room in the area long before the official OPR investigation started. Neal rushes off to the hotel, thinking he’ll find Kate, but it doesn’t quite work out that way. Fowler explains that his steam has actually been investigating Peter, as part of an operation called “Mentor.”

Then comes the huge twist I’ve been alluding to. Kate enters a darkened hotel room to be greeted by a man sitting gregariously on a chair wearing a pinkie ring. It’s Peter, of all people. Tim DeKay is trying his best to be menacing, but he’s not quite pulling it off. I have a pretty strong feeling that all is not as it appears and Peter isn’t holding Kate against her will, or if he is, it’s not out of malice, but we’ll have to wait until January to find out.

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