White Collar: Out of the Box

Season finale time! Neal skips out of an FBI briefing early, claiming that June is throwing a champagne brunch. Neal is probably the only person on the FBI payroll in all of the history of the FBI who could plausibly get his boss’ permission to skip a meeting to attend a champagne brunch. Such is the power of Neal’s charm and cheekbones. Anyway, Neal isn’t actually brunching -- he’s sneakily meeting with Alex to discuss their plans to steal the music box. Naturally enough, this meeting takes place in a swimming pool, and naturally enough, Alex makes Neal strip to the buff and go skinny dipping so that he can prove he’s not wearing a wire. This is a very good show.

(Neal’s tracking device on his ankle remains on and active, however. Apparently those puppies are waterproof. You learn something new every day.)

Naked Alex tells naked Neal the box is in a safe at the Italian consulate. They scheme to crash an upcoming party.

Neal secretly meets with corrupt FBI agent Fowler (Noah Emmerich) and tells him he’ll give him the music box in exchange for Kate. Their meeting takes place in a parking garage. About half of this episode consists of top-secret meetings in shady locations. Not complaining; just observing.

Anyway, Peter, who is not fooled by Neal’s professed penchant for champagne brunches, studies the data from Neal’s tracking device and realizes Neal has been staking out the parking garage. Peter trails Neal and secretly observes his meeting with Fowler.

Neal, Mozzie and Alex concoct an elaborate plan to party-crash: Mozzie has infiltrated the caterers, Neal is donating a priceless Italian sculpture to the consulate in exchange for a party invitation, and Alex has been cozying up to a Duke with an extra invitation to the event.

Meanwhile, dastardly Agent Fowler, who has been keeping Neal under surveillance, calls his unidentified superior to tell him Peter is on their trail. His superior orders him to take Peter out of the picture.

Neal strolls around his apartment, shirtless and well-oiled, while lovingly sculpting a naked statue of Vulcan to donate to the Italian embassy. I like it when the show gets sort of porny. Alex stops by, and they squabble about their relationship/lack of a relationship for a while, then Neal notices that Fowler has managed to deactivate his ankle bracelet.

Fowler bursts into Elizabeth’s office, searching for contraband. Peter rushes to her assistance, and chaos erupts. Peter punches Fowler, Elizabeth is arrested, and Peter takes a two-week suspension. Worse, all of Elizabeth’s caviar gets confiscated! Is there nothing Fowler won’t stoop to?

Peter secretly meets with Agent Diana Lancing (Marsha Thomason), who appeared in the original White Collar pilot before being replaced by Natalie Morales as Agent Cruz. I don’t know the reason behind the substitution, but I think the show may have erred in switching actresses: Cruz has barely registered as a character in the entire first season (which might be due more to her lack of screentime than to Morales’ performance), whereas Diana seems kind of awesome just in her appearance here: fun and brainy and competent. Anyway, Peter asks Diana to investigate Fowler find something to use against him.

Neal, Alex and Mozzie all crash the consulate party as planned. Everyone at the party, from Alex’s date to the consulate officials to the party guests, is ridiculously attractive, and they all wear fancy clothes and quaff champagne while hanging out in the consulate’s opulent ballroom. It’s pretty fabulous. I like how White Collar presents an incredibly idealized and glamorous version of New York, where everyone has money and great hair and fantastic cheekbones. It’s like Gossip Girl, only skewing to an older demographic. And with fewer twerps. Anyway, Neal commands the floor and makes a toast, where he introduces himself as an internationally-renowned art thief who’s going to rob the place. Points for honesty, Neal. Security grabs him and hustles him away to a back room, where they interrogate him. Because it wouldn’t be White Collar without Neal getting either tied up or roughed up, they manhandle him sexily for a while. The appeal of this show is obvious.

Meanwhile, Alex casually places lipstick cases in all the decorative potted plants in the ballroom. The lipsticks contain cartridges of gas, which explode and spur an evacuation of the party. In the chaos, Mozzie manages to fool the security cameras by use of a digital camera to cover for Neal, who smashes open his counterfeit statue and retrieves the safe-cracking tools hidden inside. He opens the safe and steals the jewelry box… which Alex promptly steals from him before high-tailing it out of the consulate.

Later, however, Alex has a change of heart. She drops by Neal’s apartment, sort of vaguely proclaims her love for him, and gives him the music box. In turn, Neal hands it off to Fowler, who gives him a folder containing a new identity as well as instructions on where to meet Kate.

Neal bids June and Mozzie farewell, then sends flowers and a disposable cell phone to Elizabeth. Elizabeth calls him, and he tells her goodbye as well, though not before Elizabeth, like every single other character in this episode, suggests that Kate might not be the right woman for him.

Diana breaks into Fowler’s office and downloads secret files from his laptop. Fowler catches her in the parking garage, but Peter arrives and shoots him before he can kill her. Fowler, however, was wearing a bulletproof vest, so he lives to annoy Peter and Neal for another season.

Neal, brand-new identity in hand, hurries to meet Kate at an airstrip. Kate waves to him happily from her seat on the plane.

Question: In the history of film and television, has there ever been as scene where someone waves happily from the window of a plane where that plane hasn’t blown up immediately thereafter? Just wondering.

Peter arrives and tries to talk Neal out of flying off with Kate. He asks why Neal said goodbye to everyone except for him; Neal explains it was because Peter’s the only one who’d be able to change his mind, which is sort of sweet. Neal starts to walk toward the plane, then stops and turns back to Peter.

And, yep, the plane explodes.

That’s it for the first season of White Collar. New episodes return in the summer.


Anonymous said…
I just finished watching the season finale. So, uh, do we know when the second season starts? :-)

Something I love about this show is that I can enjoy it even with the pre-requisite suspension of disbelief every once in awhile. There are some things I have to simply go along with and I don’t mind because the story/characters are so enjoyable.

I am very happy to have Diana back. She has more of a presence in the two episodes she’s been in than Natalie Morales (no offense to that actress) and I’m looking forward to seeing more of her. This may sound odd, but I get the sense that Diana being a lesbian means I don’t have to suffer the nagging irritation of anticipating some romantic hints between her and Neal (or Peter for that matter). I like that Diana gets to be a damn cool agent in her own right. So even though Neal flirted with her in the pilot, it was more amusing than something to seriously give consideration to. Unfortunately with Cruz I kept getting the impression the writers might want to go there...and I so was not into that.

Yes, this show totally goes for the glamorous and idealized fancy version of New York and normally that’s not my thing (I rarely find it interesting in movies...I’ve always preferred the working class representation of New York City), but on this show I fucking love it. It makes me want to go to these dress up parties/events and stroll around with a drink, in kickass clothes, and spout nonsense about fancy things.

Again, I have to give kudos to the casting agent. Tim and Matt work incredibly well off of each other and they have that perfect older brother/younger brother dynamic which is so believable for me that I absolutely buy Peter demanding to know why Neal didn’t say goodbye to him and Neal finally admitting it’s because Peter is the only one who would have been able to talk him out of leaving. As for the ending...no cliché unturned, of course that plane was going to blow up, yet I find myself doubly intrigued by what this means for next season.

Great recap!
Morgan Richter said…
The new season starts this summer (USA seems to like doing these short bursts of new episodes in small clumps throughout the year, instead of airing the full season at once), so we won't have too terribly long to wait. I don't know anything more specific than that. Hopefully it'll be right around the time Sendhil Ramamurthy's new series premieres on USA. That'd be a whole lot of pretty on my television screen.

I hope when the new season starts, they bring Diana back in at least a recurring role, if not as a series regular. She was pretty awesome.

I think the plane explosion was probably a good move for the show -- Neal's desperate infatuation with Kate worked well for his character at the start, but it's something that's hard to drag out too long without making Neal look like a patsy, seeing as it was increasingly obvious she's no good for him.

It speaks well for the writing staff as well as for Bomer and McKay that the final scene with Peter and Neal at the plane seemed entirely plausible, like it was the natural culmination of the events in their relationship thus far. Really well done.
Anonymous said…
I agree that physically removing Kate from the situation is a smart move. She served her purpose in season 1, but like you said, dragging that out would have been problematic. At least like this she still exists as some sort of motivation for Neal without being the only thing.

It's funny, there was a time I liked my tv seasons Sept-May with the summers off. HBO got me used to watching shorter seasons of different shows throughout the year and I quite like it. I kind of wish the main nets would take a look at that. It feels like the days of the 22 (give or take) episode season (unless a show really can maintain a good level of consistency) are over...which is fine with me. I'd rather have quality in shorter bursts than a lot of useless filler.

If this is back in the summer and Sendhil's show is on at that time...add in the new season of "True Blood" which will start back at that time...well, it'll be a damn great tv viewing summer.

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