Saturday, February 20, 2010

White Collar 1.10: "Home Invasion"

“Su casa is not even su casa.”


Overall, I thought “Home Invasion” was a pretty entertaining episode of White Collar. It made the most of the chemistry between Peter and Neal, which is really one of the show’s strong points. We also got some more back story about Neal which involves a woman much more interesting than Kate. The case of the week was also kind of fun and different, and it brought Neal and Peter into contact with a pretty interesting character. Unfortunately, trust issues are still a big part of what drives these characters. Once again, even though he’s put his life on the line for them multiple times now, the FBI still thinks Neal is going to try to commit a crime.

The episode opens with the next chapter in the Saga of Kate, which was actually kind of interesting, because we didn’t have to actually suffer through an appearance by Kate. Neal is on a busy street in New York, armed with a paper flower much like the one he found at the grave of Kate’s father. Instead of Kate, however, he’s after another brunette. After using pick pocketing to send a signal, Neal meets up with Alex, who seems to be an old flame and a great thief. Neal wants her to help him find the amber music box Kate and/or Fowler is after. Even though she’s reluctant, Alex seems to be the right person to talk to about this problem. She’s got a small figurine that was once a part of the music box.

Meanwhile, Peter and the FBI crew are actually doing real work. They are in the middle of a stake out in front of the home of a very, very wealthy stockbroker. Everybody’s a bit bored until the stockbroker comes home and things get more interesting. He is joined by a much younger woman, and everybody suspects she’s a prostitute. The FBI team is on the alert, but they don’t actually raid the house until they hear a shot fired. Inside, they find the stockbroker dead and the woman sobbing. The woman, who says her name is Pierce, tells Peter that an armed man was waiting for them inside the house. After the shot was fired, he ran away. Pierce shows Peter ID, which happens to be a British Columbia driver’s license with a Vancouver address (a shout out to the Olympics, perhaps, considering USA is part of the NBC family of stations).

Anyway, Peter thinks that things don’t seem quite right with the whole situation, so he calls in Neal. Peter’s suspicions are quickly confirmed. Pierce has escaped from the hospital, and Neal points out evidence, such as fake footprints, to show the crime scene was clearly staged. Good news is that they now have some idea of what happened (Pierce shot the stockbroker), but Pierce is on the run, and the FBI has no clue how or where to find her. The one clue is a list that Pierce left behind. It’s clearly some sort of cipher, but it’s going to take some time to figure out.

Neal wants to try and figure out the code, but he has a lot of distractions to deal with. The worst is that Peter is staying with him temporarily. The Burke house is currently without power as Peter and Elizabeth are following Mozzie’s advice and having the wiring redone. Peter had, with some bravado, said he was going to stay at the hotel where he had originally placed Neal in the pilot before Neal found June’s house. That plan didn’t last long, though…mostly because of lack of a TV and a kind of vicious looking dog that wouldn’t leave Peter’s room.

Neal was gracious about letting Peter stay with him, but Peter quickly wears out his welcome. It didn’t help that his initial arrival interrupted a meeting between Neal and Alex. Neal had been trying to play down his connection with the FBI, but Peter showing up at Neal’s door kind of blew that plan out of the water. Once Peter settles in, he and Neal become a pretty entertaining “odd couple.” Peter likes to have sports on in the background while he does his work, but Neal needs complete silence. When Neal wakes up to see Peter sitting in his seat on the rooftop having breakfast with June, Neal starts really feeling like Peter is invading his territory. These scenes were some of my favorites of the episode. “White Collar” is at its best when utilizing the very fun Peter and Neal chemistry to the fullest, and this plot certainly accomplished that.

Neal does eventually figure out the cipher (at just about the same time as the cryptanalysts at the FBI do), and it’s a list of names. The dead stock broker is the fourth on the list out of five. The fifth man on the list provided even more comic relief for the episode. Dan is a trust fund baby with way too much money and time on his hands. He thinks getting a visit from the FBI is just about the coolest thing ever. He pretty much wants to be Neal, which irritates Neal to no end. It’s amusing to see Neal so exasperated as Dan tries to imitate him, complete with fedora.

Despite being irritating, Dan is actually quite helpful to the FBI team. They take him to the stockbroker’s house to look over the stockbroker’s collection and try to figure out what Pierce could be trying to steal. Once he stops squeeing about how cool it is to be working with the FBI, Dan identifies the target piece of art quickly. It’s a jade elephant. He has one just like it. The situation becomes even more complex when an entourage, including an Ambassador, from the Japanese Embassy shows up. Five jade elephants were stolen from Japan a very long time ago, and they want them back. Or there could be an international incident.

The FBI plan to have Neal pose as Dan becomes a disaster pretty quickly. Alex found out that the FBI ran her fingerprints, and she’s livid. She finds Neal while he’s in the process of trying to convince Pierce to work with him to sell all five jade elephants, and she completely blows Neal’s cover. The FBI tries to sweep in and take control of the situation, but it’s too late. Both Alex and Pierce disappear into the night. Neal, meanwhile, is pretty pissed that Peter took advantage of his hospitality to investigate what Neal was up to on the side.

Pierce isn’t exactly pleased about what went down, either. When Neal returns to his room at June’s house, Pierce is waiting for him. And she’s armed with a gun. Pierce wants Neal to take her to the other jade elephants. And she wants him to cut off his tracking anklet to do it. Neal doesn’t have much of a choice- he has to do what Pierce asks considering she’s got a gun on him and all- but he uses some quick thinking to minimize the damage. Before he completely removes the anklet, Neal somehow gets it to short circuit in Morse code.

At the FBI, everyone but Peter seems to think that Neal is working with Pierce to steal the jade elephants and keep them from being returned to the Japanese. Luckily, Peter recognizes the Morse code before things get too out of hand. The word Neal was spelling out was “power,” and Peter correctly surmises that means Neal is headed for the Burke house, which is still without power. Neal is trying to make Pierce think that the remaining jade elephants are hidden at the house, and she buys it long enough for Peter to get an FBI team together and raid the place. The success comes with an assist from Neal who secretly started turning electronics on so that when the power was turned on at the Burke house, there would be one massive distraction for Pierce to deal with.

So, the jade elephants are eventually returned to the Japanese. And the Japanese diplomatic entourage is so grateful that Neal is able to convince them to put Peter up in a nicer hotel room until the wiring at his house is finished. As much as I enjoyed watching Peter and Neal play “odd couple,” this is probably for the best. I think Neal has been irritated enough for one episode between Peter being a bad roommate and Alex messing up his work. As one final taunt, Alex tells Neal that she knows exactly where the amber music box is located, but because he’s still working for the feds, she’s not telling him.

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