Sunday, January 31, 2010

White Collar 1.08: "Bad Judgment"

“Okay, I don’t think he bugged the dog!”


“Bad Judgment” was one of the more entertaining episodes “White Collar’ has produced. I appreciated that the case of the week was more tied into the overall story arc than usual. The case of the week has a strong tie to Fowler, and that gives Neal and Peter a chance to at least temporarily take him down. I also liked that we got to see Neal and Mozzie pull a con, “Leverage” style. I always like a good heist story. Overall, what this episode did well was play off of the chemistry between the characters. “White Collar” is at its best when there is plenty of banter, especially between Neal and Peter, and this episode definitely delivered on that front. There was even an unconventional character pairing- Elizabeth and Mozzie- that worked as well as any of the more traditional character groupings that we’re used to seeing week-to-week.

Normally I would devote blog space to tiny little episode details, but something in the beginning of this episode bugged me. Peter and Neal walk into the FBI office, and Peter is telling Neal about a sporting event he went to over the weekend. He mentions that the score was “4-3 in double overtime.” Given the score and the time of year, I assume he’s talking about hockey. There is no more “double overtime” in NHL hockey anymore, though, unless it’s the playoffs. There’s one overtime, then a shoot-out. Ah well, guess we can’t expect them to get every tiny detail right.

The case of the week is a mortgage fraud case. Mr. Sullivan recently had to probate his father’s estate, and it turns out that there was a surprise second mortgage on his father’s home. Even worse, the bank is foreclosing. Mr. Sullivan and his father had been estranged for a while, but Mr. Sullivan’s young daughter eventually brought father and son back together. Mr. Sullivan is adamant that his father wanted his granddaughter to have this home to grow up in, and he would not have endangered it by giving a second mortgage. For extra sympathy, Mr. Sullivan brought his daughter along on his trip to visit the FBI, which kind of freaks Peter out. He doesn’t do well with kids. It’s amusing to see that awkward side of Peter.

Peter agrees to take the case, and he starts his investigation with the NYPD detective who investigated the case in the past. This detective is now retired, which wouldn’t be unusual except for the fact that he’s only 35 years old. Some very important people are involved in this matter, and the detective basically burned his career by looking into it. The detective is antsy about talking to Peter and Neal, but he does leave one cryptic clue. $4.32 to pay for the tip. Later, Peter realizes this is the identification number of a federal district judge- Michelle Clark. A little detective work by Mozzie and Neal turns up the fact that Judge Clark also happens to be Fowler’s go-to judge when he needs a less-than-legitimate warrant to continue his crusade against Peter.

Elizabeth wants Peter to come home for lunch and bring Nate along, because she’s testing out food from a new caterer for an upcoming event. Neal and Peter’s car ride home is yet another obnocious bit of product placement for Ford. With declining television viewership, I understand the need for some product placement. I’ve got no issue with real-life products being used in TV shows, or even the camera lingering for an extra second on a corporate logo. White Collar, however, has whole scenes devoted just to Peter and Neal bantering about all the cool features of the Ford Taurus. It’s way too much, and it takes me out of the story. Although, Ford has just gotten me to write about them multiple times in this blog, so I guess the joke’s on me.

Peter notices that two coffee mugs are set out on the kitchen table, and Elizabeth offers the explanation that she gave the cable guy a cup of coffee earlier that morning. The cable was out throughout the neighborhood, so even though she was a little suspicious, she went with it. Neal and Peter know what’s really up, though. Somebody has tried to bug Peter’s house again- probably Fowler. Neal offers up the services of his “cleaning guy,” who, of course, is Mozzie. What can’t Mozzie do? The fact that Mozzie can do everything would irritate me except that the Mozzie as cleaning guy gives us some excellent, hilarious scenes of Mozzie and Elizabeth bonding. By the end of the episode, Elizabeth is calling him “Moz,” and Mozzie is calling her “Elle.” This perturbs Peter, to say the least.

Fowler, is, unfortunately for Peter and Neal, back in New York, but the investigation must go on anyway. Neal can tell that the signature on the second mortgage is a forgery- there are hesitation marks. Peter squirms uncomfortably as Neal demonstrates the proper forging technique using Peter’s signature. Peter goes to visit the judge, and she immediately responds to Peter’s questioning by bringing up the possibility of a bribe. Peter doesn’t accept the bribe, but he doesn’t say no either because he’s hoping he can arrange a sting and have the judge arrested. Unfortunately for Peter, the judge is videotaping this entire exchange.

Peter finds out about the taping later on, when Hughes shows up at his door in the middle of the night to warn him that Fowler says he’s going to present an incriminating tape in the morning. Peter rushes to the office to see if he can crack the case before his almost inevitable firing, but Elizabeth takes another approach. She goes to Neal for help. Somehow, in “the dead of night,” as Mozzie puts it, Neal and Mozzie manage to do surveillance and put together a plan to steal the videotape. I don’t doubt that Neal and Mozzie can grift and thieve with the best of them, but the fact that they only had one night to put it together stretches credibility a bit.

Watching the heist, however, was very entertaining. Mozzie pitches a fit to distract the real courier while Neal, dressed in a cheap imitation of the courier uniform, gets the videotape from the judge’s clerk. The plan is then for Neal to use a magnet to erase the tape. Seriously, though, this plan wouldn’t have worked so well if the judge was actually up on her technology. Videotape? Really? Don’t they make digital camcorders now? That video of Peter could be all over You Tube now if she did it right. Neal quick changes into a suit, and poses as a clerk just in time to hand the erased tape over to the real courier.

Before Neal leaves the court house, he gets an important call from Peter, who had paid another visit to the burned NYPD detective. The detective was forced into retirement when he tried to get a search warrant for the Judge Clark’s chambers. Neal comes up with yet another brilliant plan on the fly. He sneaks into chambers and makes it look like there was a break-in. Mozzie’s got a listening device set up across the street, and he hears the Judge tell her clerk that they’re going to have to move the money from the vault to a safe deposit box at a local bank.

Peter and Neal then set up Fowler to be forced to arrest the judge himself. The trick involves deliberate use of the fact that Fowler has once again tapped Peter’s phone and a forged signature. Peter basically sets it up so that Fowler is at the bank when the judge arrives with the money, and he has no choice but to arrest her. Fowler heads back to DC with his tail between his legs, but unfortunately, he’ll undoubtedly be back. He’s such a moustache-twirling villain and not very interesting.

Earlier in the episode, Neal had asked Peter to get a message to Kate. Neal wanted to know if the empty bottle Kate left in her apartment really meant “goodbye.” Kate’s response is simply “see Roger.” Peter, Neal, and Mozzie wind up at the grave of Kate’s father, Roger. There’s a moldering bouquet of flowers by the headstone, but Neal notices one clearly artificial flower in the bunch. Peter has already walked away and doesn’t notice, but Mozzie wants to know if it means what he thinks it means. And I have no freaking clue what he’s talking about.

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