Tuesday, March 16, 2010

White Collar 1.13: "Out of the Box"

“They do prison just fine. Ask Galileo.”


The season finale of “White Collar” certainly ended with a shocking twist, although I have some issues with how they got there. I still don’t understand or enjoy watching Neal’s fixation on Kate, for instance. I also thought that the pacing of the final act didn’t really work. I’ll still be happy to watch “White Collar” when it returns for season 2 because I enjoy the chemistry and banter between Peter and Neal. I may, however, not be continuing to blog the show. It just doesn’t hold my interest enough to write 1,000-1,500 words on it every week. It needs something more, although I’m not exactly sure what that “something more” should be.

This is another episode where the case of the week is heavily connected to character backstory. In fact, it’s not even a “case” of the week, per se. It’s all about the amber music box. We get to see Neal, Mozzie, and Alex pull a heist, and every time “White Collar” tries a heist episode like this (the other one that comes to mind is “Bad Judgment”) I always end up thinking that while these episodes certainly aren’t bad, “Leverage” does it better. I think it’s that I care about the “Leverage” crew more.

Neal is at the FBI office demonstrating with coffee how the crime they’re currently investigating was committed when he gets a text from Alex. He lies to get out of the FBI meeting, and he meets up with Alex at some random indoor pool. Kind of an odd spot for a rendezvous to plan a crime. There is somewhat of a method to Alex’s madness, though. She wants Neal to jump in the pool to prove he’s not wired. And I’m thinking she’s probably hoping she’ll get some pool sex too. Whether or not she does is pretty ambiguous, but I’m thinking she doesn’t, considering just how deep Neal’s obsession with Kate runs. Anyway, the important bit of information to take from the pool scene is that they’re going to have to break into the Italian consulate to retrieve the amber music box.

Even Mozzie thinks this is a horrible idea. And when Mozzie thinks committing a crime is a bad idea (as opposed to when he thinks cooperating with the FBI is a bad idea), you know it’s really bad. He’s seriously concerned about creating an international incident, although Neal thinks that because the Italians aren’t supposed to have the music box in the first place (it’s been stolen multiple times), they won’t be able to make a big fuss if they find out it’s missing. Mozzie asks Neal if he seriously thinks that if they pull the heist off, he’ll get the suburban life with the picket fence and PTA meetings with Kate. Neal’s response is “yes.” And this is where I think Neal’s Kate delusion has seriously reached ridiculous proportions. Neal and Kate at PTA meetings? Really?

Peter thinks the heist is a really bad idea, too. Neal is planning a meeting with Fowler, hoping that Fowler can get the tracking anklet turned off for the heist, and Peter catches on to it. Mostly because he analyzes Neal’s tracking data and sees Neal casing the parking garage where the meeting is to take place. As Neal meets with Fowler (who doesn’t commit one way or the other about the tracking anklet), Peter looks on from a parked car. The scene ends with Peter saying something like “Neal what have you done,” which I think is hitting the act break a little too hard. Sure, act breaks are supposed to be dramatic, but the very cool shot the director captured of Peter’s face in the car mirror would have been sufficient drama. Peter’s dialogue feels like an extra strike at the anvil just to make absolutely sure viewers understand Peter is watching Neal. I like it better when showrunners assume their audiences are intelligent.

Despite waffling during their clandestine parking garage meeting, Fowler does come through and gets Neal’s tracking anklet disabled. Fowler, concerned that Peter might throw a wrench in the plan, decides to cause a little extra mischief while he’s in New York. He shows up at Elizabeth’s office with a contingent of FBI agents, telling her she’s under suspicion for possessing contraband (improperly imported luxury food items). Elizabeth calls Peter in a panic, and after performing a quick, obligatory Ford commercial (using the nav system in his car to get a traffic report), Peter is on way to Burke Premiere Events.

When Peter arrives at Elizabeth’s office and sees Fowler is behind the raid, he is livid. Actually, Elizabeth is pretty livid too once she realizes that this is the guy who has been making their life miserable for weeks. Remember, Fowler was responsible for the bug and phone tapping incidents, too. It’s a bit of a contest to see who is going to pummel Fowler first, but Peter wins. He takes a swing at Fowler and gets a two week suspension from the FBI for his trouble. He puts Neal on house arrest as punishment for starting this mess.

House arrest can’t contain Neal, though, thanks to the disabled tracking anklet. He shows up at the Burke house to apologize. Peter continues to warn Neal against trying to steal the music box, but Neal can’t be swayed. The two agree that once the heist is over, they will work together to take down Fowler. I really wish I thought that was going to happen any time soon. Fowler is a bit mustache-twirling for my taste.

Neal, Alex, and Mozzie each have their own plan to gain entrance to the Italian consulate on the night of a big party there. Alex managed to become the date of a duke who had been invited, and Mozzie gets hired by the catering company. And Neal? He is giving a gift to the people of Italy- a forgery of a famous sculpture. The Italian consulate doesn’t spot the sculpture is a forgery, and they give Neal an invite to the party in gratitude.

At the party, Neal has yet another unconventional idea to get into the secure part of the consulate where the music box is being held. He announces to the entire gathering that he is a renowned art thief there to rob the consulate. Naturally the consulate security guards hustle him to a holding cell that just happens to be in the secured area. Meanwhile, Alex is setting up another distraction. She places smoke bombs disguised as lipstick tubes in all of the planters around the edge of the room. In the chaos that ensues, she and Mozzie get into position. Mozzie’s job is to obscure the security feeds. Neal breaks his forged sculpture to get to his safecracking tools. I did appreciate that Neal had to drill into the safe and use a sort of camera device to crack it. Much more realistic than the “listen to the safe” method so often depicted in television and movies (and no, for the record, I’ve never actually tried to crack a safe).

The plan goes down without a hitch except for one tiny problem. Alex takes the music box and runs off. She does eventually have a change of heart and give the box back to Neal, though. She says that she doesn’t want there to be bad blood between them in case Kate isn’t the girl Neal thought she was. I’m definitely rooting for Neal and Alex to get together eventually. They’re a lot of fun. Anyway, Neal takes the box straight to Fowler, who offers Neal a new identity and a life with Kate.

Neal wants to say a few goodbyes before he leaves New York for good. His goodbye with Mozzie is an especially touching scene. He calls Elizabeth, sets her up with a great gig for her company at an art museum, and sends her flowers. He doesn’t, however, make any effort to say goodbye to Peter. Here’s where the pacing gets a bit wonky. While the heist aftermath is going down, Peter has a plan in play to try to expose Fowler.

Diana, his protégé from the pilot episode, is back in New York, and Peter asks her to go to Fowler’s office to copy some files off of his computer. Diana almost gets away with it, but she’s caught by Fowler in the parking garage. Peter quickly arrives on the scene and is outraged (again) at what he sees. He manages to shuffle himself towards Diana, grabs her gun, and shoots Fowler twice in the chest. Unfortunately for all of us, Fowler was wearing a bullet-proof vest. He does get pretty winded though, and Peter uses the advantage to find out where Neal is. Except for that little detail (Fowler knew where Neal would be), I really do think it would have been more effective if Diane’s snooping and capture had been intercut with the heist. Pulling off the heist felt like the climax of the episode, and adding all this other stuff to the end just really threw off the pacing.

Peter finds Neal about to board an airplane with Kate on it. Peter tries to convince Neal to stay in New York, telling Neal that he already has a good life in New York and he’s making a difference. The scene almost feels like that stereotypical scene in romantic comedies where one lover tells the other “give me a reason to stay.” It’s kind of an odd vibe. Neal isn’t convinced though, and he starts to walk towards the plane. And then the plane explodes. Peter has to hold Neal back from running into the flaming wreckage. It was a superb acting job by Matt Bomer, but I’m left wondering whether Kate is dead or alive. And, frankly, I’m kind of hoping that the answer to that question is “dead.”

No comments:

Post a Comment