Asta 2

White Collar: The Portrait

So danceswithwords seems to think I have a type:

Pfft. I don't know. I don't really see it. ;p Of course, she shall now mock me for spending time tracking down, editing and mashing up photos.

Now, for the less superficial. Far too long thoughts on the show.

‘The Portrait’ was a mixed episode for me. There were small moments and attention to detail that continue to impress me, even more so on second viewing, but I found the plot to be the weakest of the five episodes to air thus far. And Kate….well, I’ll get to Kate.

But first I want to talk a bit about Neal and Peter. I swear I’m not looking for it, but could the show get any slashier? Here are a few highlights from the discussion in the car:

Neal: “I can handle temptation.”

Peter: “I’m keeping my eyes on you.”

Neal: “You checked my anklet?”
Peter: “I always check your anklet. I pull a map up on you everyday so I can see exactly where you’ve been.”

Peter to Neal: “Are you gonna sulk now?”

Obsessing much Peter? I know you can track a person with those anklets, that’s the point. And it makes perfect sense the FBI would choose to see where Neal goes when he’s not working. He has paintings, cash and bonds stashed somewhere and he could lead them to them. But why is Peter spending his weekends reviewing where Neal’s been. They have clerks for that. ;)

Beyond what I create in my imagination, there are two canonical reasons for Peter having such a keen interest in Neal’s every move. First, he sees Neal as his responsibility. He vouched for him to get him paroled and he seems to have a genuine belief that, to steal John’s line to Aeryn in Farscape, Neal can be more. He’s smart, resourceful and talented. He just needs to stop taking shortcuts.

Second, Peter’s fate is tied to Neal’s. If Neal ends up back in jail or, worse, escapes from under Peter’s supervision, Peter’s FBI career could be over. I still feel Peter wants to trust Neal, and does on some levels, but Neal admits temptation still exists and he remains on a quest to find Kate. Those impulses could override more reasoned judgment, even if he doesn’t wish it to.

And Neal did steal the painting, though he was playing Robin Hood rather than attempting to profit from his crime. Unfortunately, Peter won’t allow Neal to share the details with him as to why he did what he did. Thus Peter is left wondering if he would have ever known the truth had Terran’s life not been at risk.

I am now perplexed by Neal’s deal with the FBI. Peter tells Elizabeth that if they don’t recover the painting and money, Neal is going back on the inside. Really? There is no proof that Neal was in the possession of the either (I was at a loss as to why Peter was convinced Neal had the painting when Dorsett had cleaned out the room. Are we missing a scene?) and do they have to have a 100% success rate with their cases for Neal to remain semi-free?

I’m also questioning playing up Neal’s looks every week. They laid it on especially thick in this episode. Yes, Matt/Neal is very, very pretty and I would find it crazy if they didn’t acknowledge that Neal is well aware of his looks and charms and that both are assets in whatever line of work he’s currently in. But perhaps they could have Neal be in a scene with a woman who is not a lesbian and not have her be taken in by his looks? And will see Terran again? She just disappeared in the middle of the episode.

Of course, it seems Neal will flirt, but not do anything more as long as he believes he can reunite with Kate. I have to say the allusion and mystery of Kate fell apart for me upon ‘meeting’ her. My two biggest problems are the actress, who looks like she’s just out of her teens and thus way to young to have a long term relationship with Neal (Matt Bomer is 32 and given Neal’s time spent in prison, the years Peter chased him, and having to work his way to being the con man he is, I’d say Neal is roughly the same age). And I know we only had one scene with her, but she didn’t strike me as a very good actress. Her line delivery was too flat given what was supposed to be an intense and emotional scene.

Plot wise, Kate asking Neal to reveal where he hid everything to the man who ‘took’ her so they can be together left me going, “Hmmmmm”. It screams she’s been playing him, but I hope it’s not that simple. And Neal’s refusal to do as she asked sets up intriguing possibilities. It seems clear it’s not just Peter with some trust issues. Neal may be madly in love with Kate, but he’s never trusted her with the whereabouts of the fruits of his work.

Mozzie is becoming a very interesting character. Is it just me, or did we see the first clear indication that Mozzie is not Kate’s biggest fan? He seems like a good friend to Neal who doesn’t want to see him get hurt again and is becoming frustrated by Kate’s “bipolar’ behavior. He’s was on to something with Kate’s note. It could have been left three days or three months ago. How could Kate have left the note for Neal to meet her there on that particular Friday when she had no idea when he’d figure out the map on the bottle? Is she showing up every Friday at Noon? Or is Neal being watched?

There were, once again, several small things I really enjoyed about the episode. Neal enticing Peter with June’s Italian roast coffee. Neal’s alias being George Devore. Neal’s habit of raising his hand in the FBI meetings when he has a question (Peter can’t say he’s not polite!). The origami, which is new, but it’ struck me that it’s something to keep his hands busy. I’ve noticed Neal, when he walks or is standing, frequently has his hands in his pockets. It may just be Matt letting his own habit bleed into the character (check out photos of him and you’ll see what I mean), but it also made me think of “Idle hands” and if they are busy with something innocuous or buried in his pockets he’s less likely to be doing something that will get him into trouble.

Then there’s Neal’s gold card. At first I thought it was really dumb of Neal to get a credit card in his own name and use it at the restaurant, which allowed Dorsett to track him down. But both turned out to be smart moves by Neal. In the restaurant, when Neal is going through the three credit cards he has, only the gold card says “Neal Caffrey”. The moment passes too quickly to really catch it, but on frame by frame advance (don’t judge me!), I believe one of the cards has the last name “Newton”. So Neal assumed, rightfully, it wouldn’t take long for Peter to discover he had a credit card. In fact, he wanted him to know so Peter could track the expenses Neal wants him to know about. As for using the Caffrey card in the restaurant that led Dorsett to him, he had to since Peter knew he was there and would be using the card. It all made sense!

And, yes, Neal, you are very much a romantic. You wouldn’t have faced giving up four more years of your life to go chasing after Kate. You wouldn’t have confessed to Peter about the painting if Terran’s welfare wasn’t at stake. And you wouldn’t have returned the painting to Julianna. You’re a really a big sap, Neal. :)

Here's a nice little interview USA Today did with Tim and Matt before the series launched. Tim has a nice handle on Peter and Neal's relationship. And I appreciated Matt's thoughts on shooting in New York City. It does make a difference.

Oh, dementedsiren, I read that June is supposed to return. :)
  • Current Mood: amused amused
First, because I have to: YAY JUNE! Honestly, when Peter came in during the "Italian Roast" scene, I thought "ooh, maybe it's JUNE!" and then it was Peter. And I don't want to be disappointed by Peter.

I was at a loss as to why Peter was convinced Neal had the painting when Dorsett had cleaned out the room

At the time Peter was going on about not trusting Neal I didn't understand, but you saw later that Peter had the origami butterfy that Neal left for Dorsett. Since Peter paid attentio to the crane that Neal made in the car, I figured that's how he put it together.

And yeah, Kate did nothing for me. Bit of a letdown, really. Though I was very intrigued by Neal's refusal to tell her (the few times they've touched on that have been very interesting scenes).

I, too, am confused on Neal's uber-tenuous status with the FBI. It's kind of like if he's on a case and it's not solved, he's automatically to blame? IDK..
I'm wondering if there was a scheduling conflict with Diahann Carroll. There would have been a break in shooting between the pilot and the series. Maybe she wasn't available again until the back half of the season?

Since Peter paid attentio to the crane that Neal made in the car, I figured that's how he put it together.

Er, Duh! Yeah, now it makes sense. I'm thinking we should have seen Peter look at the file before he tells Elizabeth he was sure he took the painting.

I was surprised we met Kate so soon. I assumed she wouldn't appear until the end of the season. But since her introduction was so underwhelming, perhaps it's good the build up wasn't longer. Perhaps I'm reaching, but maybe four years in prison caused Neal to build her up in his mind?

Jeff Easton apparently isn't a spoilerphobe and in an interview he talked about a future episode which left me wondering how Neal wasn't back in prison, given what happened this week put his freedom in jeopardy.

Yeah, Kate was a crazy bit of casting. Not only is she like 12, she looks a bit too much like Thiessan.

"But perhaps they could have Neal be in a scene with a woman who is not a lesbian and not have her be taken in by his looks?"

Don't like 90% of people in real life hide from those they think are pretty, anyway? I'd expect to see more women ducking behind corners than flirting.
I don't know about ducking, but I'd say the majority of people get a little tongue tied if not stupid. I've had my share of, "I can't believe I just said that to him!" moments. I'd just like us to have a few scenes where women don't show an interest in him. Elizabeth hasn't flirted back, but she's still acknowledged his looks.
Hee, first on Neal and Peter, yes they were very very slashy this week, but also I felt very uncomfortable watching them, like there is this tension between them the whole time this week (and it's not even the UST), and after so many weeks of fun bantering between them, it was a bit uncomfortable, but it may be just me so I don't know. But yes slashy goodness.

For me the weakest plot so far is still Threads - I think the plot here is to reinforce the "Neal is a romantic" image, and to push Neal into even more grey areas in his dealings now with the FBI, and now with Kate appearing, and Neal making the decision not to reveal where he hid his stash, it really makes me wonder what Neal is hiding. As for all the ladies falling at Neal's feet, well, at least the granddaughter did not flirt with him too much :P But haha it was fun to see Peter so jealous and possessive every moment Neal is flirting :P

Re: Kate - Yes I am not impressed with the choice of actress, I expected someone more mature, and someone who's special, like you see her, and you will know instantly why Neal was so devoted/attracted to her, despite his trust issues.

I think the whole "Neal will go to prison" thing which Peter likes to bring up is probably due more to his paranoia than anything, I don't know, I have a feeling unless Neal does something really outright criminal and gets caught by the FBI, an unsolved case is unlikely to throw in back into jail, but I agree with you that Peter's career is really on the line here with Neal, and Peter has a lot to risk should anything goes wrong.

/ends long ramblings
I noticed the tension between them too, but I can't say it made me uncomfortable. I think the tension is actually natural and realistic. However, because they've seemed like BFFs since the pilot, I found the tension a bid odd. I wonder if Eastin, who wrote the episode, felt he progressed the relationship too quickly and was trying to take them a couple steps back? I don't know if you saw the preview for next week, but either USA put together a deceptive promo (entirely possible) or there is more tension between the two.

'Threads' had the weakest plot (Smuggling data in a dress? Really?), but I felt the writing was more disjointed in 'The Portrait'. Which is odd considering the guy who created the show wrote it.

I, too, am curious what Neal has that someone would, supposedly, want so badly. And does he have any idea what the mystery man is after? And would he give up his "leverage" to the FBI if it meant saving Kate? When he said he could protect her I assumed that meant going to Peter for help.
I just saw the promo, and hmm did seem like there is going to be more tension! Ya I agree that tension between them has to appear at some point, and it's totally realistic, but it's just a total change from their chumminess in Episode 4 so I just felt a bit weird wondering what happened between then and this week to cause so much tension between the two men.

On another note, the promo makes the coming episode look very fun. Really looking forward to it!
Why would I mock you for proving my point? Also, OMG, at least Matt Bomer is wearing a real shirt and his blazer isn't velvet! He would never wear a bedazzled sweater.
I think I've seen enough photos to declare Bomer the fashion winner. I've seen a couple outfits that made me go, "Eh", but not "OMG, what were you thinking???"
I, too, was a bit surprised we met Kate already. Though even just 5 episodes in and all of Neal's talk, it had already built her up a lot for the audience. I admit, I'd expected a younger Fiona. Someone who was clearly sly, strong, a match for Neal. Hell, even a stronger voice. There was something lacking there and 'm just hoping that when we *really* meet her, there will be something more substantial there that we didn't get in that short scene. Or, you know, a recast ;)

I also responded to the whole exchange between them with suspicion, wondering if she was playing him or what, though I changed my mind a bit when she spoke to Mozzie on the phone, telling him it was the only way. I do think it's more than just one playing the other. But I was also curious about that note and part of me thinks that yeah, Kate was waiting there every Friday since he was released.

I agree with what you said about the focus on Matt/Neal's attractiveness. Yes, he's pretty, we don't need focus on it every single episode. I LOVED that there was someone who actually didn't fall for his charm in the pilot, but of course, she was a lesbian and mysteriously hasn't been seen since and has been replaced by straight chick who gets jealous while watching surveillance of Neal with a suspect. One doesn't have to be gay to resist an obvious charmer and yes, it would ne nice to see that. I like that Neal flirts, its all part of his personality, that's fine, but women CAN see past that.

I'm also a fan of Mozzie. USA does have a tendency to grab all the actors who were great supporting actors elsehere and placing them in the forefront of their own series. That said, sometimes it takes time for their series(like most) to really find their foot hold and stride. I'm haven't loved an episode since the pilot and I really want to because all the potential is there and all the performances are working really hard for me to like them. And I do, it's just their material that I find rather bland and when that happens, my attention drifts easily. TBH, if we're comparing it to something like Burn Notice, that show suffers similarly and has a tendency to pack in too much fluff and filler so it can remain a bouncy show that won't get too serious and in turn, loses me a bit and never allows me to truly LOVE the show, only like it.

But I'm willing to see where it CAN go and well, the show certainly has its actors to thank for that.
I really hate to judge someone based on their performance in one scene. On the other hand, I've taken notice of actors, in a good way, because of their work in one scene. Maybe the actress is dating someone involved with the show? That would explain a lot!

When Peter was complaining to Elizabeth about Neal's flirting, she pointed out it's what he does. And I completely agree with her. His looks and charm are two considerable tools and he uses them to full advantage when he's running a con. But I'd like to see him fail miserably from time to time, have a woman roll her eyes and walk away or poor a drink in his lap. And if he's such a flirt and it can help him to get what he wants, when are we going to see him flirt with a guy? Not to stereotype people, but given his cons involving art, he would have had to have encountered a few gay men.

The pilot was one of the strongest I've ever scene and I was hoping that subsequent episodes would be as terrific...and not so much. However, because the series has such a strong cast and makes great use of NYC and is beautifully filmed and there seems to be a lot of effort made to try and make a great show, I'm pretty forgiving about missteps at this point. Most series, even extremely successful ones, generally have rocky first seasons. Battlestar Galactica and Friday Night Lights are two exceptions, but they set the bar so high, they had no where to go but down.

I also wonder if they crafted this wonderful pilot episode got, picked up for series, and then the writers went, "Oh, crap, how do we do this every week?!" ;)

I have to say I'm especially amused by your Casey icon this evening. Just a few hours ago I watched the episode of Chuck in which Bryce Larkin returns from the dead and confronts Casey about 'killing' him. :)
I’m also questioning playing up Neal’s looks every week. They laid it on especially thick in this episode.

Yes, I thought so too. That was one of the things that made it feel like a much earlier episode to me. It would've worked much better in, say, 1x02.

Re the interview: They do laundry!

*dies* OH BOYS! <3
I had a few moments where I thought they were airing the episodes out of order. A couple of Peter's conversations with Neal and the scene between Terran and Neal, in which Neal basically recapped how he got to where he is today, felt like scenes that should have been in the second or third episode. But since the clues leading to Neal reconnecting with Kate had to be in a specific order, then the episodes must be in order.

I thought you'd like the laundry comment. ;)