WC - Neal (jawline) - Shea

White Collar: Forging Bonds

Anytime I read the words "prequel" or "flashback" I tend to worry. There is too much opportunity to screw up continuity. Add to that fear, "Forging Bonds" was a heavily hyped episode and critical darling of the media. I tried to prepare myself. I was bound to be let down. It's happened so often before. But, to my amazement and shock, I was not! The episode not only was good, but even exceeded expectations for me in some respects.



Let me begin, as I usually do, with what didn't work for me: Alexandra Daddario. I'm amazed a show that has done such a good job casting roles, even one time guest spots, hired someone for such a crucial role who, lets just say, lacks the talent of those around her. It makes it very difficult, though not impossible, to understand why Neal was willing to sacrifice so much for Kate.

I'm too cautious and practical a person to believe in love at first sight. But the moment we see Neal come face to face with Kate, the look on his face tells us he's completely smitten. And since Neal is a romantic who sees the world as he wants to see it rather than how it is, I am able to believe he's in love.

His reaction to Kate is made more believable when put into contest with the other quick “bonds” he forms in the episode. He embarks on a partnership with Mozzie within hours of the two meeting. A chance encounter with Peter outside the bank leads to admiration and a desire to know everything about him. And Alex is a one night stand who he remains in contact with. He even feels guilty discussing their 'relationship' with Kate.

Neal Caffrey has always been quick to form impressions of people, and ones he is unwilling to shake. One look at Kate and Neal decided she was The One. It didn't matter he knew nothing about her. That she was a blank canvas. He just went ahead and created an image of her in his mind, an image of the woman he wanted to love, and nothing Kate could say or do would change that. This certainly is not healthy, but Neal's devotion to her – and what he believed they had – does make more sense to me now.

(ETA: Commenting on another LJ, it just struck me, there was discussion of Kate not getting to know the real Neal, which worried him, yet he never opened himself to learning about the real Kate.)

One aspect of the episode, in particular, stuck with me from the moment I heard it mentioned: the long con. Mozzie and Neal spent a year conning Adler, but what if Adler was conning them? When Neal reveals the password is an anagram that spells out “Nice Try Neal”, it's clear Adler new who Nick Halden really was and that Neal had been played. But for how long? Neal was hired to investigate people on Adler's behalf. It would make sense there were already people on Adler's staff to do the same job. Neal was new to the long con and Moz perhaps a little too confidant in his skills. As soon as “Nick” passed his business card to Adler, was Adler opening up a file on Neal? Did Adler wish to bring Neal into the fold, but was forced to cut and run before he could reveal to Neal his plan? And was Kate left behind to report on Neal's progress and usefulness to Adler?

I've seen some speculation Kate is Adler's daughter. She could be, but I have a couple problems with the idea. One is we saw Robert Moreau's headstone showing he died in 2000. It could be a fake, since the date means Kate's father died before Neal could have met him. However, Robert could have been an associate of Adler's and Kate was left in Adler's care after her father's death.

My other issue is Vincent Adler has a past. At least there was no indication from Peter or Neal that Adler suddenly appeared on the radar. I would think someone would have found out if Adler had a child.

But whether Kate is Adler's daughter or simply another one of his pawns (hey, the show likes the chess metaphors!), doesn't matter. I think Kate was used to manipulate Neal, though she likely fell in love him, and the plan succeeded.

I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about Copenhagen (and not just because I'm feeling some personal shenanigans took place there between Neal and Alex ;). It's inclusion could be nothing more than another piece of continuity (which we had A LOT of) or is it an integral piece of the puzzle?

Here's what we know: Alex was there and sent word to Neal she had a lead on the music box. Neal joins Alex, even after Kate refuses to go. Something goes horribly wrong and Alex ends up in a hospital in France. Neal returns to New York to find Kate gone.

Here's what we don't know: Who else knew what was going to go down and perhaps could have been there keeping an eye on things? Peter points out there had to be someone there to spread the word Neal had stolen the box. My theory within a theory is Adler was in Copenhagen. He believed Neal had succeeded and got word to Kate to get the music box away from Neal. We know Adler doesn't have a problem with having people killed after they finish being useful to him. Neal's future would have been grim. Kate, having grown to care about/love Neal splits to protect him.

During Neal's incarceration, Kate visits and Adler backs off for a time because he either believes Neal won't reveal the box's location while in prison or learns Neal doesn't have the box. Something happens with Adler and it spooks Kate. She leaves Neal, again, in order to, again, protect Neal, but ends up back under Adler's control. (Sidenote: there is no way I can ever believe Kate is a cunning con artist or master manipulator, she would either need Neal or Adler to lead her.)

What I'm sill ttrying to figure out is how Alex fits into all this. Could she be working for Adler? Maybe. In the beginning. She is quick to figure out Neal isn't Nick and the first to bring up the music box to him. Yet, we also know Alex is very much her own person, tends not to play well with others and is capable of double-crossing people she works with. So, if she had a connection to Alder early on, she's not necessarily working with him now. Especially given she cares about Neal and I don't believe she would want to see him dead.

Today, to fact check a couple things, I watched the end of 'Bad Judgment', in which Neal finds the origami flower in the bouquet left at Kate's father's grave. Then I watched Alex's introduction in 'Home Invasion', in which Alex is surprised to find the same flower in the wallet and Neal standing nearby. The two were set up to meet, by Kate.

Getting back to Kate, I've never been convinced she's dead and this episode reinforced my belief. Adler has an obsession with fractals, used in batteries, and found in all our electronic devices.....like a remote detonator to blow up a plane. I'm just sayin'. And while it's become painful to watch Kate onscreen thanks to bad casting, I still have a desire to see Neal make a choice to say goodbye to Kate and move on. It never did sit well with me the way the relationship ended.

Now that I have gone on at length with my theories, I probably should touch upon what I liked about the episode itself.

Continuity for the win! I'm not going to bother listing it all because there was so much there, but I especially liked the Bordeaux bottler and Raphael making a return.

Puppy Satchmo! So adorable! And I'm glad to finally learn how old he is. It's one of those things I wanted to address in the fic I've been plotting forever and.....moving on.

Though I believe Neal has been the victim of a long con in which Kate is a part of, Neal believes he pulled Kate into a life of crime. This helps to explain his guilt at leaving her alone with a lot of broken promises while he sat in prison.

While it didn't surprise me, it was interesting to see Neal try to con Kate. She seemed genuinely hurt. Neal's acted in the same manner with Alex and Peter and they've had similar responses to his dishonesty. On the one hand, I hate to see Neal manipulate and hurt people he's close to. On the other hand, there has to be a reason he is unable to stop himself and allow himself to completely trust others. I feel Neal is a much lonelier person than I had previously imagined.

The inherent distrust also leads me to believe, even with Peter's promise of immunity until sun up, there was no way Neal was going to share more information than he absolutely had to. It's why we failed to learn more about Neal's crimes - what put Neal at the top of Peter's most wanted list - in those three years before his arrest.

I loved how Peter's arrest of Neal played out. Beyond his criminal activities, you see why Peter was so intrigued by Neal and, ultimately, willing to do so much to help him. Neal's thank you to Peter was sincere and Peter knew it. How many other criminals about to have the cuffs slapped on would say and do what he did? It was a perfect moment and nicely set up the bond forged. :)

Finally, (I know, FINALLY) I got what I needed from the episode. Questions I really wanted answers to were answered - like how involved were Neal and Alex. ;) And others I felt needed to be saved for later were saved for later. For instance, we now know how Neal Caffrey became the man he is today, but how and why did Neal Caffrey become...Neal Caffrey? What caused him to follow this particular path when he could have followed others?
  • Current Mood: accomplished accomplished
That was a very good ep (and i enjoyed reading your review)
I was a little itchy about the ep (for reasons you mentioed) and i was happy to see how things played out.
Now i'm so ready to find out *how Neal become Neal* It must be very interesting to find out.
I'm rather glad we got this flashback before learning why Neal turned to a life of crime. Otherwise, I would feel as if we were getting a history lesson as events unfolded chronologically.
Very good, and I wanted to tell you I thought about Adler in Copenhagen and I have a theory to add to your theory.

Regarding Alex: She ended up in a French hospital and she was arrested there too (maybe not at the same time), but she was released because she's got some powerful friends. Perhaps Adler had a hand in this, and now she works for him in some way.

I'm not sure if she knows that Adler is the Big Bad Evil, but I bet if she is talking with him, this is how he's keeping tabs on Neal. Adler is just manipulative enough that Alex may only be a pawn in his game, and an expendable one at that. Once Adler realizes that Alex has seen what he needs and gets that info from her, he has another loose end to cut.

What do you want to bet that Alex is next on Adler's list of People to Get Rid Of?
Oh, I hadn't thought about her arrest and subsequent release in France! Imagine Mr. Burns saying, "Excellent." Yeah, that would work in nicely. It still doesn't make Alex evil, just horribly misguided. AND we must also remember she had the music box for a day (or so) before returning it to Neal. What if she took it to Adler and he and his experts couldn't figure it out so he told her to return it to Neal to see what he could come up with?

We haven't seen Alex, but we know Neal has. She now knows what happened to Moz and why and realizes she had a hand in it....which makes her a liability.
Doesn't work for me...I mean, if Alex was working for him, why would he need Kate to set up a meeting? Plus, Alex is very independent, and until now Adler was presented as very controlling. That doesn't really mesh. But I bet, he kept an eye on Alex the whole time, too.
I still don't know why Kate didn't tell Peter that she did love Neal after Peter asked her "if she ever did" in the hotel room. It was just the two of them.

(And, you are correct in that I don't believe Kate in a large part because of Alexandra.)

I really am fascinated if "Neal Caffrey" is his real name. I feel that the show has tilted the power in the relationship towards Peter. It will be interesting to see if Neal regains the equalibrium in some way (maybe, as you said by not telling Peter everthing...there still is a huge stash out there.)

My quibble is I really think Mozzie and Neal should have met earlier than they did. If Neal is say 32ish in the show and he was in prison 4 years (give or take a few months) and with Peter for 2 years, that doesn't give him much time to have been the mastermind he is suppose to be. A mastermind reputation can't be made in his trips to Europe.

I guess we'll have to wait to see what layers are revealed next.
Maybe Adler had her so suspicious and on edge she believed he would know what she told Peter? It was her room and it could have been bugged. Now, I'm being paranoid on her behalf! ;)

Oh, I think Neal has a small fortune stashed away. As to whether Neal Caffrey is his real name, I've been going back and forth on that since the series began. Remember how Peter was surprised to learn Neal didn't graduate high school? That means there is a part of Neal's past that is unknown to Peter and the FBI. Did Neal not exist until his twenties? I still lean towards Neal being his real name, but I admit it's what I want. I like the idea that he held on to some part of his former life, even if it was just his name.

Matt is 33 and I've always assumed Neal is the same age. They stated he met Mozzie eight years ago, which would have made him 25. Given he just arrived in New York, I can imagine he was wandering for quite some time learning the tools of the trade. And then Moz works with him for a couple months before setting him loose on Adler. That I can all buy. My problem with the timeline is in the three years between Adler and prison, he would have had to pull off a hell of a lot of forgeries, thefts and cons to build his supposed wealth. Keep in mind, he bought a bakery on prime real estate in New York City!
And I've become even more certain that Neal Caffrey isn't his real name.
As I commented above, I keep going back and forth on Neal being Neal. I lean towards it being his real name, but I have nothing on the show to point to as proof of it. I just like the idea that he held onto something from his former life.
While I still don't think Alexandra Daddario quite pulls her weight, I did feel like she pulled a little more in this episode than she has in the past, so yay for that.

Neal was new to the long con and Moz perhaps a little too confidant in his skills

I also think that both Neal and Mozzie were victims of the scale of Adler's con. They met over a card game in the park; they forged a few bonds and counterfeited a bottle of wine; they thought Adler was an ideal victim precisely because he was so well placed in the world of high finance, and I don't think it had occurred to either of them before that that can be another form of scam.

I really enjoyed the intertwining of Neal and Peter's history. I also liked that Andrew McCarthy was the big villain. Awesome casting.
I agree. It seemed that even after Neal realized he'd been taken, he still respected Adler and, in part, it had to do Adler being such a surprise. When Neal Caffrey gives Adler credit for making him the man he is it's not just because of what he learned from him, but because he forced Neal to admit he had a lot left to learn.

The only thing that bothered me about Andrew is his Adler reminded me a lot of the character he played on Lipstick Jungle. And with his former co-star on that show, Paul Blackthorne, appearing in 'Burke's Seven', it's been a weird couple weeks for me!

And another interesting bit of trivia, the kid who Moz gives $20 to to follow Neal is Willie's son. :)
When Neal Caffrey gives Adler credit for making him the man he is it's not just because of what he learned from him, but because he forced Neal to admit he had a lot left to learn.

And, I think, also because Adler gave him entree into a world of wealthy people, and a certain lifestyle, that he hadn't known before.

Sometimes, it's good not to know TV history. Although apparently Paul Blackthorne is a showkiller.
I like your theory (not surprising, since I just posted a very similiar one at my LJ). But I have to disagree about the continuity. There were some glitches in the episode (like Diana being already a probie when the probie-time of the FBI is only three years, Peter having the mustache Diana has a photo of and "neal would have broken out of prison to see", and I really want to know when they managed the love triangle with Keller (whom Neal meet in Monaco) and what's the deal with the bottle? If Neal gave it to Adler, how did he use it later in with Kate (or was this another one?) While I like the story about Neals arrest and the fact that they were only able to pin something on him what he did at the very beginning of his career, I think they tried to hard to throw everything in which was important later on.
I can rationalize some of the seeming continuity errors (one of many things BSG fandom taught me ;):

Neal never saw Peter with the mustache so he could have assumed Peter had it while he was in prison. And Diana probably didn't see the point in correcting him.

Neal met Keller in Monaco, but it was implied he had run ins with him over the years. I can believe he crossed paths with him after he hooked up/partnered up with Kate and Keller could have seen Kate while Neal was in prison.

I assumed Moz had purchased/found/stolen many of the Bordeaux bottles and the auction was not the first time he had pulled such a scam. Neal being the romantic he is, I can totally see him taking one for himself and, as he told Peter, having it symbolize the life he promised Kate.

I think they tried to hard to throw everything in which was important later on.

I wouldn't argue with that statement. While I can buy Neal met Moz and Kate at roughly the same time, adding Alex into the mix seemed excessive.


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Well, I can live with Alex, as long as in the end her turning up for the music box has something to do with Kate hocking up with Neal. Since we don't know yet, I reserve judgement on that. (I'm btw not sure that is really was just a One-Night stand, the passage of time was a little bit hazy, could have been a couple of days). The only thing which irked me was that they linked the origami to Alex and the bottle to Mozzie - that used to be trademarks for Neal, and ones I really liked.
But I really could have done without Jones and Diana. I like the characters, but really, how long is Jones suppose to be "just an Agent"? How pathetic is it to be in Peter's task force for eight years and still being second best to (four years Probie!) Diana.
In the end, there was a little bit too much to rationalize...which irks me to no end. Because there was so much in the episode to love (the first meeting with Mozzie, the lolli, Vincent Adler), it could have been freaking perfect if the writers hadn't been so sloppy.