Asta 2

White Collar: Bottlenecked

At last, my long delayed thoughts on 'Bottlenecked'. I know, you've been waiting in breathless anticipation to read what I have to say. ;) I seem to be the atypical fan in that when I really like an episode - and there is little to nitpick - I don't have much to say and am in no rush to say it. 'Bottlenecked', I felt, was one of the strongest episodes of the season. I just watched the episode for the third time and nothing struck me as hugely illogical. If I can rationalize a plot point in under thirty seconds, I consider it a success. ;)


Keller is my favorite villain to date. In part because of his connection to Neal and ability to get to him (Though I don't think Kate ever was involved with Keller. We don't know her very well, but having been with someone like Neal, I can't see her rebounding with someone like Keller.); in part because Keller is a more believable bad guy, someone we can easily identify with and the type of criminal the FBI would encounter on a more regular basis.

Neal referring to Keller as a blue collar version of himself intrigued me. Neal could merely have been labeling the type of crimes Keller normally perpetrates, as well as his manner and methods. But could it also have been a reference to where each came from? Personally, I'd love it to be revealed that Neal didn't come from humble backgrounds and is a completely self-made man. What if Neal Caffrey came from wealth and privilege and has always been accustomed to the finer things in life?

After the wonky characterization in 'Home Invasion', Neal and Peter were more themselves in 'Bottlenecked'. The episode also had a nice balance of plot and Neal/Peter interaction. I'm probably one of the few people in fandom who feels this way, but some episodes I have felt focused too much on the bromance, slash...whatever you wish to call it. I love the partnership and relationship between Neal and Peter. I even enjoy spotting the subtext. But I don't want to be beaten over the head with it. Perhaps Jeff Eastin being the co-writer of the script explains some of it.

In 'Bottlenecked', there were many small moments to appreciate. There was Neal and Peter's reaction to seeing each other earlier than usual at the office and the perfect line delivery of, "What ya doing?" / "Nothing." Neal explaining his plan to get back into the wine cellar with Peter's help, Peter questioning it, and Neal responding with, "We can call this one a gray area." It is exactly what Peter said to Neal in 'The Portrait' after Neal obtain the check with Dorsette's name on it ('The Portrait' was also penned by Eastin).

Then there was my favorite catch. Neal, who has claimed he doesn't care for beer, was having a beer with Peter at Peter's home. It could be that Neal was merely being polite. But I think it's more than that. In the very next scene, we see Neal and Peter arriving at the wine tasting and Peter is complaining about the tie Neal has picked out for him, yet he has agreed to wear it. What those two scenes subtly did (and I like subtle) is show us that both men are beginning to compromise, to accommodate one another and are allowing the other a little bit more into their own world. And, on a larger scale, Peter actually did trust Neal to run with this case, something he hesitated doing in 'Vital Signs'.

I also liked seeing Peter being smart. Sure, it was originally Neal's plan, but every time it was on the verge of falling apart, Peter stepped up with a great idea that allowed them to proceed.

Hughes only had one scene, but it was one of the funniest. As he walks into Peter's office, Peter looks up and says, "This can't be good." Hughes responds, "Why does everyone say that when I walk into their office?" I may have had similar conversations myself. ;)

Moz was awesome and is becoming an increasingly integral part of the series (and FBI sting operations). He's feeling much more at ease around Peter and Peter, in turn, seems to have just come to accept he'll be a part of their cases.

It struck me on third viewing that Neal and Moz have the same smart phone. My personal fanon is Neal bought it for him. :)

Neal doesn't have a million dollars for a bottle of wine? Did buying a bakery in Manhattan wipe him out??? ;p

I'd have had more issues with Peter contemplating busting Keller for trespassing if I had not just watched an episode of Southland in which the police were busting gang members for jaywalking while trying to crack a much larger case.

Finally, because once again this has turned out much longer than I had planned, I'm beginning to wonder why Neal was willing to serve out his four year prison sentence? Neal seems to think there is a good chance Keller will escape from prison. We know Neal is capable of doing that and can put a plan together in a relatively short period of time. So why did Neal not break out six months after his sentence, grab Kate and run off to Europe or some country with no extradition? Is there a reason he was willing to sit in a cell and wait? Hmmmmm...


A heads up to those with Comcast or TV Guide, the description of the season finale contains a spoiler. Or at least it was the first I was reading about a plot point.
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I'm probably one of the few people in fandom who feels this way, but some episodes I have felt focused too much on the bromance, slash...whatever you wish to call it.

I agree with this. I wonder if they hadn't focused on it so much in previous episodes if Home Invasion wouldn't have been so jarring being aired when it was? Either way it was nice to have a more balanced episode with more of an actual plot with an awesome villain.

I also liked seeing Peter being smart. Sure, it was originally Neal's plan, but every time it was on the verge of falling apart, Peter stepped up with a great idea that allowed them to proceed.

Agreed! I think Neal does best with coming up with ideas when he has time to plot but Peter is a bit better at coming up with ideas on the spot. Peter is also better at seeing the possible consequences of his choices, usually anyway.
I wonder if they hadn't focused on it so much in previous episodes if Home Invasion wouldn't have been so jarring being aired when it was?

I still think the writing was off in 'Home Invasion', but I would also agree that, because of what came before, there was a lot expectation leading into the episode. I saw a lot of squeeing at the thought of Neal and Peter being roomies and I had a feeling that it wasn't going to turn out as expected.

And I wonder if shifting from the original concept of 'Case of the Week' to a focus on the Neal/Peter relationship, and doing so rather quickly, then trying to strike a balance accounts for some characterization issues. It is only the first season, and a fourteen episode one at that, so I can cut them some slack as they work out the what the want and need the series to be.

Peter is definitely better at seeing the consequences of his choices. As Moz has astutely pointed out, Neal is like a child with no impulse control! :)
There's a commentary on USA network with Jeff talking about the episode and how they wanted to do an odd couple thing with them being roommates. I really do think they meant for it to be funny that they would drive each other nuts if they tried to be roommates because yes their personalities are that different. But it was definitely over played, especially with having Peter snooping to find out that Neal was looking for the music box. The odd couple idea was a good one but the way they did it just didn't work.
The idea was a good one, but the execution was poor. Maybe they can try it again in the future, but have Neal staying for several days at the Burkes. Though it would probably only lead to more Elizabeth, Neal and Mozzie bonding, much to Peter's aggrevation. ;-)
On the issue of why Neal did not escape, grab Kate and run off - I think it has a lot to do with Neal's code of conduct as a conman. I remember Peter saying in the pilot about how when one gets caught, one does their time and busting out of jail is not right and I think Neal plays by that too. I think he also never thought that Kate would pack up and leave, being the romantic he is. Neal enjoys pushing the line but I think he also knows if caught he has to face the consequences.

Re: Keller - I think he's a good villain because he's smart. Some of the previous villains have been a lot less impressive but this one has tricks and knows how to push buttons and like you say, he's a lot more believable.

I think Neal comes from a pretty cultured background but whether it is a happy childhood or not depends on where the writers want to take his backstory.

Maybe his bakery is not earning him enough for the wine. :p

As for the bromance/slash, hmm I like my doses of them even if I love subtle progress like those you highlighted. However I am beginning to think the "I only trust you" moment came a bit early and has raised my expectations of their partnership a bit but this episode is generally great with them on the same page. I need to learn to appreciate subtle moments more :p

I do think drinking beer with Peter was partly to get him to agree to the vault idea though ;)

Okay this is one long comment lol oops.

Keller was definitely smarter than some of the villains they've had. I also think they are starting to develop the villains better. Early on we didn't seem to know their motivations for why they did what they did, other than maybe greed. Now we're getting to know the enemy and it makes them a lot more interesting and Neal and Peter's ability to catch them more impressive.

Speaking of the bakery, I SOOOO want Neal to bring Peter a cake from their on his birthday. :)

However I am beginning to think the "I only trust you" moment came a bit early and has raised my expectations of their partnership a bit

I agree. That struck me as something that should have come at the end of the season. Maybe even Season 2. And with 'Home Invasion' with all the tension between them airing immediately after, it makes the trust scene seem even more out of place.
Speaking of the bakery, I SOOOO want Neal to bring Peter a cake from their on his birthday. :)

If that ever happens, it would put the BIGGEST grin on my face *g* It's actually also a good fic idea, but sadly I can't write haha.
I'm surprised fics haven't been written about that, especially since we have confirmation Neal still owns it. Though they could have been and I missed them.
I noticed something similar in the beer and wine tradeoffs. Neal supposedly doesn't like beer, or is that just pretend snobbery? Peter acts like he knows nothing about wine and will only fake it, but his supposed bluff sounded almost too good to be fake. Reverse snobbery? They seemed to be mirroring each other.
Hmmm, good point. I hadn't thought about that. It did strike me that Peter knows more about wine than he's been letting on. We've seen he and El drink wine with dinner. And it's conceivable she's brought home bottles for testing before she serves them at events. Given how dismissive they've both been about each others interests and tastes, there is definitely snobbery going on on both sides. But is it general snobbery or something they just reserve for each other?
I watched "Bottlenecked" again in anticipation for tonight, but also because I was so exhausted that night it aired I didn't retain some of it an felt like I needed a reminder. XD

I would LOVE it if we found out down the line that Neal came from a very privileged background and decided to reject all that had been handed to him in order to earn it himself. Because, of course, the catch is the thing - what is it in his nature that would make him turn to crime to make that happen, as opposed to saying "Screw you, Dad, I'm going to go rent a broom closet in the East Village and live on ramen and saltines until I start earning an honest living MY way!" Obviously, that didn't pique his interest. ;)

My favorite line in this is actually "Pinot. You've seen Sideways." (Kinda funny if you know what Sideways is about, REALLY funny if you've seen Sideways and remember...)
My favorite line in this is actually "Pinot. You've seen Sideways." (Kinda funny if you know what Sideways is about, REALLY funny if you've seen Sideways and remember...)

I found it REALLY funny. ;)

I'm glad someone besides me is onboard the Neal came from a privileged background train. :) Maybe his father or mother was/is a corporate big wig, one of the kind of people that Neal would work to snooker? He could have seen first hand how they steal from people and thus learned their weaknesses and how to steal from them. I do think he has family issues, but working himself up from an underprivileged childhood seems so cliche.