WC - Ambassador of Awesome - btfl_decade

White Collar: Payback

I had every intention of posting much, much earlier because I really, really loved this weeks episode, but real life (blech) intervened. I am planning on taking some much needed days off in the coming weeks because having just a weekend (at best) to play catch up? Not Working! But enough of my whining, on with the show.....


It only took one viewing to add 'Payback' to my list of favorite White Collar episodes. Still there was one thing that bothered me about the episode. But only one thing! The incredibly contrived fight between Peter and Elizabeth. Peter might as well have been holding up a sign stating, “Something BAD is about to happen to me.”

We've seen Peter and Elizabeth disagree. They occasionally get mad. They may even get a little terse with each other. But Peter and Elizabeth do not fight. El even says so later on. So, not only do they fight, they fight about something dumb – dry cleaning. Neither Neal nor Moz (and I'm guessing most viewers) can understand how they had a fight over dry cleaning. It just doesn't make sense. Not for these two and likely not for most couples married as long as they have been. To make the situation even stranger, El was fine with picking up the dry cleaning, it was a non-issue, until Peter decided he had to make it an issue.

I guess what irks me most is the writers didn't believe Peter's kidnapping was enough. That we, the audience, after watching nearly two seasons of Peter and Elizabeth's awesome, loving relationship, couldn't comprehend how devestating the kidnapping would be without the added angst of an unresolved argument and not saying, "Hun".

And does he really have a desire to be the perfect husband? When he forgot about their anniversary in the pilot I think it was clear that ship had sailed. OK, I'm moving on....

Though it was Peter's kidnapping at the center of the plot, and he had his fair share of the screentime, it felt like a Neal-centric episode. Maybe it's because while Peter was (mostly) the Peter we've known all along, events led to Neal showing actual character growth. I couldn't help but think Season 1 Neal, however fleetingly, would contemplate cutting the anklet and running while the entire FBI and countless law enforcement agencies were busy looking for Peter. But it was clear it never entered his mind. Granted, it was Peter whose life was at stake, but would he have done less if it was Diana or Jones or that agent that sits two desks from him? I don't think so. Neal wasn't just trying to be a team player, he was a member of the team.

And it was a team, for the first time, working without Peter. While Jones has always been pretty accepting of Neal, Diana has been wary, if not hostile, and Hughes, while regarding Neal as an asset, most often approaches him with exasperation. But Diana came to Neal's defense and Hughes actually gave him a pat on the shoulder for a job well done. Neal's like a kid when it comes to compliments and rewards. Earlier in the episode, he lit up when Peter compared him to Cary Grant. Neal may not always get along with Diana and Hughes, but he does respect them and that they took him into the fold really meant something to him. Neal's feeling more and more a part of the team and liking it. He's moving away from his former life, the one he thought he wanted, and embracing it.

I'm still not sure where they are headed with Kate. I'm one of those people who is not completely convinced she's dead. I'm also the suspicious type who feels a show doesn't keep bringing up a dead character unless they have plans for the character, especially when we get reminders they are dead. Maybe I've just watched too many soaps in my lifetime. There was no body! Anyway, again, moving on.....

Within the context of the episode, I liked how they handled Neal's lingering feelings for Kate. He realizes he has to move on, but he's obviously not quite there yet. I'm sure the squees of Neal/Peter fans could be heard round the world when Neal gave up Kate's engagement ring to get Peter back, but what I most appreciated was Neal had the opportunity to reclaim the ring and (nearly) told the truth about it. And it wasn't just about saying goodbye to Kate and the life he envisioned with her, it was about him choosing to do the right thing. The honest thing. To the tune of 2.5 million dollars. That's amazing progress for Neal Caffrey.

Mozzie was pretty awesome too. It was interesting to learn it wasn't that he disapproved of the idea of Neal settling down and having a family, it's that he didn't approve of him doing it with Kate. 'Forging Bonds' didn't flesh out her character significantly, or show Kate and Moz interacting enough for us to fully understand why he would disapprove, but Moz knows Neal as well (if not better) then we do so I assume he has the same reservations as us. And that he can envision himself as Uncle Mozzie - and shares this with Neal - says he not only wants Neal to see his dreams fulfilled, he sees himself as part of them.

Moments of awesome and a couple "Really?" moments....

Was Keller moved into a visitors room? I'm no prison expert (thankfully), but a) that cell seemed far too large and b) I don't recall ever seeing a table and benches in one in TV or film before. And wouldn't all of Keller's perks be a clear sign of prison corruption that a visiting FBI agent may report? Neal had obviously wheeled and dealed for some 'comforts' when he was in prison, but Keller's accommodations were far too excessive. Or was it an attempt to depict Keller is more corrupt than Neal? Um, he's a murderer, duh!

I loved that Elizabeth presumed Neal had sent Moz over to check up on her, only to discover he took it upon himself. And the kiss on the head! How sweet!

Following Peter doing some, imho, extreme ribbing of Neal about Keller, Neal confronts Peter about it by stating Peter's sarcasm goes up in direct proportion to his stress levels. Scenes that annoyed me before make so much more sense now! I can see the pattern! Or at least I can make myself see it the next time Peter annoys me. ;)

While I didn't care for the argument, I loved Stachmo's reaction to it. He left the room! Best Satchmo scene to date.

I'm not buying Neal's depleted all his resources. I know he had legal fees during his trial and the bakery would have cost quite a bit (But shouldn't it also be making him some money? Why do they torture me by never mentioning The Greatest Cake???), but I think back to the pilot and it was established Neal told Moz and Kate two different stories as to where he had stashed everything.

The Hug! That wasn't a surprise, but it was unexpected. Does that make sense? What I mean is, we know there is a strong bond between the two, but I wasn't expecting them to so overtly share their feelings. And since I've often felt Neal has needed a hug, it made me happy. :)
  • Current Mood: groggy groggy
I actually really liked the Peter/El fight because they were so cute and CONFUSED during it. But the follow up made no sense. As you said, Peter's not really wed to being the perfect husband, but just a *good* husband. Although I wonder if it's more that forgetting their anniversary can be seen as a one-time thing, and the dry cleaning as a pattern? Anyway, what really bothered me is: why Neal didn't tell El about the discussion he had with Peter?!?! That was clearly just to make the scene with Mozzie, but doing it that way, made *no sense* to me in-story or as a storytelling device.

I'm also getting annoyed with the Kate backstories just not lining up. We just saw an episode all about their relationship; where is this planned-proposal WITH RING supposed to fit in? I wish that ring would have just been a present for Kate. With meaning, sure, including that he wanted to marry her, but not for a planned proposal.

But, oh, man, they are all so adorable, I just want to squish them up.
I'm rewtaching the episode right now and it strikes me that a problem with the fight is the timing. If they had had the argument during any other episode and any other case it wouldn't have come off as a blatant attempt to ratchet up the angst. But, yes, the idea of Peter desperately wanting to be the perfect husband really rubs me the wrong way It's an unrealistic goal, especially for Peter who has acknowledged his own shortcomings to Elizabeth in the past.

Neal not mentioning his conversation to El made sense to me. Neal's an optimist. He has to believe everything will be OK. So Neal not telling Elizabeth what Peter had wanted to say is the result of his conviction Peter will be back to tell El himself. God forbid anything happen to Peter, the conversation would have been one of the first things Neal shared with Elizabeth.

Neal acquired the ring six years before. I believe that falls into the period when he an Kate were estranged following his choice to take off to Copenhagen. My take was, while she was out of his life, he came upon the ring and the idea of giving it to her as an engagement ring. See previous comment about Neal and his optimism. I totally buy he planned the entire proposal while they were apart, but since he only reconciled with Kate moments before being arrested he then decided to wait to ask her until after he got out of prison.
My favorite part of the episode was the argument! I don't believe the writers were trying to ratchet up the angst factor for Peter's kidnapping (if they had, I think the argument, as it is, would have been bigger). I think it was more of a "Peter is having a crap day, and well, now it's even worse".

So the argument...it was just the type of ridiculous stuff that will happen in a marriage. The fun part is, Peter had most of it by himself while Elizabeth is puzzling about her hubby's grumpy mood.

The argument did a few things for me: it was funny because it was a stupid argument.

It's a continuation of Peter's struggles and fail in his personal life/emotional aspect of his life. Note the difference when he's on the job and when he's dealing with Elizabeth or Neal in an emotional manner. He kind of flails and panics.

Thirdly, we get to see Peter being a bit vulnerable. He's pretty down on himself. He's the guy who forgets. He's got a list of imperfections. He's a constant disappointment. To who? Not El, who takes his forgetfulness in stride.

So why is he so down on himself? Well...china_shop has a theory similar to mine: Neal. While Peter has been an excellent influence on Neal, Neal has certainly had a bit of an influence on Peter. Before Peter might have been able to brush aside his forgetfulness as not a big deal. Now maybe, after watching Neal go after Kate, hearing their love story, and seeing how Neal treats the women in his life, Peter may be feeling a little insecure.

Or, Peter could have just been having a mopey, moody day because he's tired and is stressed. He's had an awful lot on his plate since he took that deal with Neal. ;-) Everyone is entitled to a pity party every now and then, even Peter. :-D

Plus I loved Neal and Moz's reactions to the 'fight'. And I like what El said, "There are no small fights. Just things that left unresolved that fester." This was the first time they hadn't resolved a little spat.

I agree with pretty much everything else you said. :-D

Did you notice Peter's little self-satisfied smile when they gave his location, and he realized he had only been off by what, a block? :-D Good job, Peter!

Also, my favorite line is from Keller: "You should better protect your king" (to Neal). Mwahahahahahaha. You are evil, Keller. I'm so happy we get to see you again. :-D
They've had almost two seasons to have silly argument and it happens right before Peter's kidnapped by a guy who has no problem adding another murder to his crimes. Yeah, the White Collar writers are not known for their subtlety.

I've never felt Peter has struggled with the idea of failure in his marriage. Has he been disappointed in himself? Absolutely. It's like when he forgot (again) his anniversary in the pilot. He beat himself up and worked hard to make it up to Elizabeth. And he did. I could understand with him being annoyed that Elizabeth, once again, had to pick up the slack for a shortcoming. But if this is something that's been going on for years and he seriously perceives it as a big failing on his part then he's had ample opportunity to change his pattern and start picking up the dry cleaning. It actually would upset me more if he did believe this to be a big deal and he's failed to do anything about it.

I guess my image of Peter is not of a man being that down on himself. We all beat ourselves up from time to time and Peter has had his fair share of "D'Oh!" moments in his personal life, but angsting over 'OMG, I'm not the perfect husband!' was excessive to me. It's great he aims to be the good husband, but NO ONE is going to be perfect and he knows it. Even with Neal Caffrey hanging around. Although, maybe next weeks ep will provide more insight. ;)
As you said, the show is not subtle. If the writers were going to go for a huge angst factor, they would have. Instead the argument proved a few moments of levity in what was a pretty intense show.

Peter is a bit mopey but he's not really angsting over it. Peter is generally secure in himself. But, if I may speculate, (and this goes into the episode for next week ;-) ), he may be comparing himself a bit more to Neal and is beginning to fret that maybe he isn't as good a husband as he should be.

Besides, I think it's perfectly logical for Peter to be down on himself. He's had a stressful few months. He's probably tired, probably stressed, and this was his mini-implosion so he can get back to being awesome.

The little doubts about himself are not out of context from the show and from what we've seen. :-D The pilot isn't the only episode where we've seen Peter kind of flail or doubt himself. In "In the Red", he asks El uncertainly about whether or not they have sparks.

One of the charming things about his character is that for all that he's capable on the job, he's kind of fail on the emotional level and in his personal life. I love that about him.

I think that his doubts will fit nicely into next week's episode (perhaps the writers intended for Peter to be worried about what kind of hubby he is for a reason, yes?) If you saw the script page, the network even had some thoughts about Peter and El that mirror my own.

So it's cool if you don't agree. Just expanding more on my thoughts of Peter and his insecurities.
I completely agree about the fight. It wasn't the fight *itself* that bothered me (I actually like that we see Peter and El dealing with realistic marriage issues on a regular basis) but just what you said - the idea that we wouldn't be sufficiently invested in the story, or that El wouldn't be as upset by her husband being in danger, without some sort of blatantly contrived domestic drama. It really bothered me. I did, however, absolutely adore the El-Mozzie scene. Their friendship is one of the best things on the show.

Some of the pacing choices also seemed strange to me. At two key moments, the action slowed way down for scenes that weren't bad on their own but sucked the tension out of the story - when Neal and Moz's little chat about the proposal that wasn't, and Neal and Diana snarking at each other about the tree on the dashboard. Again, both scenes were perfectly serviceable by themselves, but their timing stuck me as very strange.

But overall, I did like this ep. I have an absolute bulletproof kink for BAMF!Peter and I adore Keller, so I was a happy fangirl :)
(I actually like that we see Peter and El dealing with realistic marriage issues on a regular basis)

Me too. And how boring would they be if they were a 'perfect' couple as opposed to a good one that works?

The discussion about the proposal was a bit relevant to the story, but I also suspect it's helping to set up the next two episodes in some way. The show doesn't always succeed in incorporating arc stuff with the story of the week.

The Ford Focus product placement was jarring. I see a lot of people complain about it, but the reality of television now is product placement is a necessary evil. If it helps keep the show on the air, I can deal with it. And I do feel the writers do a better job then other shows of integrating the product. Maybe asking about the tree on the dashboard was excessive, but Neal is a nervous passenger so it was an in-character moment. Maybe the scene would have worked better had it been at the beginning with Peter instead of Diana and he's distracted because of his argument with El?
Yes, I think you're right. The Kate-related anvils, they are a-fallin' :) I didn't mind hearing about the proposal (though I can't understand how it fits in with the backstory revealed in Forging Bonds), but I just didn't think that was the right time to do it. Or, at least, it should have been more rushed - Neal blurting it out while he hammered the ring free, or something.

I don't mind product placement as a rule, but I do get pretty annoyed when it isn't done well. And you're right that WC usually finds a way to drop it in in a funny or at least believable way, which I guess is why I find it particularly bizarre when they choose to do the placement in the midst of a tense/dramatic scene. I think we can take it as a given that PP does take the viewer out of the story to some extent - that's the entire point of PP - so it baffles me that they would do it in the middle of a chase scene. It would have been just as easy to have Peter and El's fight have been about their car, wouldn't it? (Say Peter was supposed to "update the GPS" or something, and he forgot so El had to do it.) I actually wonder if the advertisers are getting more savvy about where the placement occurs in the narrative, and want it to happen when the viewers are really engrossed in the action.
It wasn't strange for me that they added more angst about not saying Hun to the kidnapping. For us (and other crew) it was important. For Peter not so much because he loves his wife and that unsaid word bothered him more that the situation he ended up in, imo.
But all in all they handled it good enough for me to handwave some small details and just enjoy the show.
I definitely enjoyed the episode. I watched it again this morning. :) But the argument and the what it was supposed to represent still annoyed me. I just didn't find it necessary.
I didn't even analyse it that deep. The rest of the ep got me excited to just forget about that.
Ya if Neal had not made that comment on Peter's sarcasm increasing with his stress, I was ready to smack Peter for his remarks on Neal and Keller.

::high five in solidarity::

Yeah, I had the same thought. ;) Putting aside the swipes at Neal are getting very old, it's a childish kind of cruelty on Peter's part. If Peter is going to lecture Neal about growing up, then he needs to act like an adult himself. But if it really is a reaction to stress, whether it's Neal induced stress or other stress, then I can at least understand where the comments are coming from and wave them off as Neal seems to be doing now.