Wednesday, March 10, 2010

White Collar 1.12: "Front Man"

“Ah, naiveté. So sweet. I bet you believe in the moon landing.”


“Front Man” was a decent, although not spectacular, episode of White Collar. I enjoyed seeing Neal feel remorse for one of his past crimes, although it felt a little forced, storytelling-wise. As I commonly say about this show, I thought that good and evil were a bit too clearly defined and motivations were a bit too simple, but I’m beginning to see that’s part of the package with White Collar. Peter and Neal (especially Peter) are always going to win the day. Neal also manages to scheme enough to get exactly what he wants for as long as he needs it. Just another day for the New York FBI office.

Alex pays Neal another visit to talk about the amber music box that Kate and Fowler are after. She’s not pleased, however, to see that Neal is still wearing his FBI tracking anklet. The anklet would be way too much of a liability in any heist they might try to pull. She gives him an ultimatum. She’s not going to talk to him further about the music box unless he somehow manages to get rid of the anklet. I really do wish Neal would get over his Kate fixation. Neal and Alex have a lot more chemistry. Okay, that may seem pretty heartless after what just happened in last night’s episode, but I still stand by my opinion!

When Neal arrives at the FBI office, he is beckoned to Hughes’ office. Agent Kimberly Rice, who works in the kidnapping and missing persons division, is waiting for him. A girl has been kidnapped, and she thinks Neal can help. The victim is Lindsay Glass, whose father is a pretty significant figure in Neal’s past. He owns the company whose bond Neal was accused of forging. To make things even worse, the suspect is a man by the name of Wilkes. Neal is most definitely on Wilkes’ bad side. Neal joined Wilkes’ crew years ago only to turn on him. And Wilkes isn’t exactly the forgiving type.

Neal still feels guilty about what he did to Glass and his family, so he agrees to help. What doesn’t sit as well is that Hughes puts him under the authority of Agent Rice for this one instead of Peter. At first, Peter actually seems to take it worse than Neal. He’s rather emo over the whole thing when having lunch with Elizabeth. Elizabeth encourages him to just go barge in on Rice’s crime scene and forget about protocol. Peter couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Rice shut Neal down when he tried to question Glass, and she told Neal that he was just a tool in her belt. He then was told to stay in the car, and that’s where Peter found him. While Rice is still inside dealing with Glass, Peter and Neal do a little snooping. Neal finds the ticket to an underground club in the alley, and it seems like this is where they’re likely to find Wilkes.

Rice, who bans Peter from interfering with one of her operations again, wants Neal to go to the club and see if he can find Wilkes. Neal is cool with this, because he sees it as a way to get rid of the tracking anklet. Rice would be stupid to send him undercover with that big sign that he isn’t who he says he is. Rice, luckily for Neal, agrees and removes the anklet. Peter is concerned when Neal’s tracking signal cuts out, a little peeved when he finds out that Rice cleared it, and irate when he finds out from Glass that Wilkes’ deal was Lindsey in exchange for a face-to-face with Neal. Neal has been set up.

Peter calls Neal to warn him, but it’s too late. He’s tasered and shoved into a van before the phone call is complete. This isn’t so great for Neal, obviously, but it does have a pretty fun-for-the-viewer upshot. Agent Rice is in big trouble. It’s a little frustrating that Peter was right yet again, but it was definitely satisfying to see Agent Rice get her comeuppance. Peter is taking over the operation.

It turns out that Wilkes kidnapped Neal because he wants Neal to do some of his dirty work. Neal’s first assignment is to get the travel itinerary of one Thomas Loze. Wilkes has a sniper trained on the receptionist of the travel agency that has the information, and he gives Neal two minutes to get the itinerary before he has the receptionist killed. The receptionist is a mother of two, and Neal does not want to be responsible for her death. She’s not very receptive to his charm at first, but Neal is a good grifter and switches his tactics. He pretends to be a single dad who can’t bear to tell his son that he lost another job, and he’d definitely lose his job if he didn’t get that itinerary. The receptionist buys it and gives Neal the information.

Wilkes isn’t done, though. He wants Neal to take a metal case from Loze when Loze arrives at the airport. Neal is reluctant to keep doing Wilkes’ dirty work, so Wilkes comes up with more motivation. If Neal doesn’t do as he’s told, Wilkes will kill Lindsay. Putting the episode in “Leverage” terms, Neal switches over from being Sophie to Eliot and demands proof of life. Neal gets tasered again for his trouble, but he does get proof of life. He is taken to the abandoned building where Lindsay is being held, and he notices that an unmasked goon armed with a gun (complete with silencer) is keeping watch. Wilkes definitely means business.

By this point, the whole FBI crew and Mozzie (thanks to a spam e-mail to “Dante Haversham’s” e-mail account) have been alerted to the fact that Neal’s in trouble, and they figure out that Neal is probably going to be at the airport to meet up with Loze. Loze is actually a pseudonym for a very feared guy in the criminal underground- Edward Reilly. Reilly is known as the guy to use to transport important stuff. Neal and Mozzie cook up a plan that’s much better than Wilkes’ initial plan (threaten Reilly with a gun) to get the metal case. Meanwhile, Peter and the rest of the FBI crew are trying to find the location where Lindsay is being held. They know it’s on the waterfront near a specific Chinese restaurant.

Neal and Mozzie’s plan is to pose as undercover cops and appeal to Reilly’s desire to fly under the radar. It turns out that the case holds a bunch of forged credit cards, and Neal and Mozzie make Reilly believe that they’re hard up for money and would be willing to look the other way if he left them with the case and all but one credit card. Reilly takes the bait easily. I do wonder why Neal thought he could get away with giving Wilkes the case with one missing credit card, but whatever.

Neal needs to buy a little more time for the FBI to find Lindsay, so he tries to play it at the hand-off like he bribed Wilkes’ crew with the credit cards. That doesn’t last long, though. Wilkes throws the metal case and credit cards come flying out. Wilkes is not at all happy, and he’s about to shoot Neal when Jones and some other FBI agents that have been tailing Neal come to Neal’s rescue. At just about the same time, Peter’s half of the FBI team find where Lindsay is being held and rescue her.

Neal manages to sneak off from the aftermath before anybody can think to put the tracking anklet back on him. His goal is to meet with Alex, of course. She’s impressed that he got rid of the anklet, but she’s still a bit skeptical. Anyway, she gives Neal the location of the music box and says she’ll let him know when it’s time to start planning the heist. Neal returns to the FBI to find Peter not in an especially great mood since Neal escaped. Neal does point out that at least he came back. Peter warns Neal that if Neal goes after the music box, Peter will catch him…again.

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