Neal: “Peter, I’m starting to like you again.”
Peter: “We’re hanging out too much.”
That, folks, is the episode and Neal and Peter's relationship in a nutshell. Two men on opposite sides of the law, learning to trust one another and spending way too much time together in the process.
This was clearly a very special episode when we were given the “Previously on…” It was a first. And for a moment I wondered if, a la Battlestar Galactica, we’d be shown footage not previously seen! Given how many times I’ve watch the pilot episode, I can safely say it was not the case.
Last night, I did something I had not done before and took a look at some forums and comms for fan reaction…..and was quickly reminded why I stopped doing that with shows I loved. Many fans believe the situation at the end is not as it seems. I would say these are people who have watched a lot of TV and understand when show runners are yanking our chains. But there are those that think Peter may actually be a bad guy. Seriously? We’ve had a grand total of seven episodes of White Collar. In those seven episodes, the writers have spent the majority of the time, not on plot, but on building the relationship between Neal and Peter and, to an extent, Neal, Peter and Elizabeth. Peter’s desire to trust Neal and his inability to fully do so has been a major theme. And we’re to believe Peter has had some nefarious motives this entire time? That he’s been lying to Neal for his own benefit? That he doesn’t like Neal? No, we're meant to be left hanging until January 19th and wonder what the hell it all really means.
I’ve been suspicious since the beginning that Peter knew more about Kate then he was sharing with Neal. Last week, we had evidence Kate had a connection with someone in the FBI and I was willing to believe it was Peter. This week, we have proof Peter has been in contact with her. But when did this begin and why?
I’m not going to dwell on the ring. Apparently, Peter only wears it when he goes to see Kate? I know it’s merely a way to establish visually that Peter is the one in the picture. Though maybe the writers could provide us with a reason for Peter not wearing it for months since he didn’t know Neal had the other half of the picture? Please?
The theory I developed last week about Peter’s connection to Kate hasn’t really changed. I still believe Peter is trying to protect Neal. If I question anything at this point it’s why Neal Caffery? Why, of all the criminals Peter has arrested and convicted, does he want to ‘save’ Neal from himself? Maybe it is as simple as Peter does not view Neal as being as bad as others he has investigated and Neal is young and still capable, to Peter’s mind, of being reformed. But I do wonder if there is more to it than that.
There were too many moments, both large and small, that showed Peter wants to believe in Neal. That he wants to keep Neal working with the FBI. And there must be a very good reason for Peter to keep Neal from the woman he loves.
I felt there was one specific story thread that was a turning point for both men. When Peter learns Neal had a six hour window of opportunity for Neal to steal the diamond, Peter becomes suspicious. Soon after, Peter is handed ‘proof’ of Neal’s guilt and his worst fears realized.
I thought perhaps Peter had doubts when he went to visit Neal in jail. Both men were obviously hurt and angry by the other's betrayal - especially Neal upon learning the information he shared in confidence with Peter, that his initials could be seen under polarized light, had been handed over to the FBI and used to entrap him. Yet Peter seemed, for a moment, to second guess himself following Neal’s earnest declaration, “I didn’t let you down.” The possible acceptance that Neal was being truthful was fleeting, however, as we see Peter tell Elizabeth he believes Neal is guilty.
But only moments after Peter and Elizabeth's conversation, things get very complicated and very interesting. Peter lets Neal escape. As soon as Neal's feet touch the ground, Peter starts to take a step to go after him, then abruptly stops. Hell, he even smiles in appreciation of Neal’s elaborate plan and his success in pulling it off.
Peter may not be happy with Neal's choice to come to his house, and the potential that creates for making a bad situation, for both, worse, but it's a move that succeeds in building trust. It’s not just the evidence of the phone monitoring Neal hands to Peter, it’s that Neal went to Peter for help in clearing him. If Neal was truly guilty and looking at life in prison, Kate or no Kate, he’d run.
But Neal isn't simply looking to clear his name, he's looking to prove to Peter he can be trusted to honor the terms of his parole, if not be trusted to drop the search for Kate. And that Peter holding back from chasing Neal after witnessing his escape was not misplaced faith. Peter can allow himself to believe Neal wouldn’t let him down.
As for Kate, the girl is up to something. If Peter was keeping tabs on Neal during his time in prison, I can believe he was also keeping a watchful eye on Kate. The photo tells us that (presumably) Peter spoke to Kate shortly before she left Neal. Neal was only months away from being released. Was Peter trying to split the two up before Neal's release for Neal's own good? Did Peter’s confrontation of Kate cause her to break up with Neal because she knew what Neal would do? When Neal proposed working with the FBI, did Peter work to make the deal happen out of guilt over Neal serving another four years because Peter's actions resulted in Neal doing something he didn't foresee?
I’m not sure Peter has had any contact with Kate since that picture was taken. In the pilot, when Neal asks Peter if Kate’s in France, Peter seems sincere when he tells Neal he doesn’t know where Kate is. And while Peter is aware of Neal trying to track Kate down, his reaction to Neal informing him he’s talked to Kate is one of surprise. My working theory is Peter made some sort of deal with Kate, warned her to stay away from Neal for the good of both (but more so Neal), and he’s realized she’s broken the deal.
I also suspect it’s key that Neal took Kate’s call on Peter’s phone. If Peter obtains a report on Neal’s ankle monitor every morning, we’re to believe he wouldn’t check on a phone call for “Mr. Caffrey” taken on his phone? Why would Kate call the FBI offices if they are holding her/threatening her? Why not call Neal’s cell phone? And with Peter in the conference room next to Neal, we know Peter couldn’t have forced Kate to end her call abruptly. Think, Neal, Think!
I’m not so clear on what is going on with Fowler and Mentor or MENTOR. Was Adrian Tulane Fowler’s Neal Caffery? Is he looking for other FBI/ex-con partnerships for his program? Yeah, that seems silly to me. It was Peter and not Neal that was the target of the investigation, but why use Neal to get to Peter? I don’t for a second believe Peter is anything other than an upstanding, exemplary FBI agent he's long appeared to be. Could Kate have gone to the Office of Professional Responsibility and told them Peter was strong arming her in an attempt to discredit him and get him off of her - and Neal’s - back?
OK, that was a lot of talk about plot. I usually don’t have much to say about that!
I covered quite a bit of the Neal/Peter relationship already. Overall, I think the theme of the episode, in terms of their relationship, was Peter coming to trust Neal. Neal could have run; he came to Peter. Neal told Peter of his contact with Kate and how it affects his choices. Now, when we return from the hiatus, I believe we are going to see Neal having to learn to trust Peter. The series can not continue indefinitely with each second guessing the others motives. By the close of the season we should see the two men having all the faith in each other that partners would.
There were a lot of squeeful moments throughout the episode. Peter taking Neal into custody, cuffing Neal’s hands in front of him and covering the handcuffs with his jacket so the rest of the team would not see Neal as a criminal. The anger exhibited by Neal and Peter during the jailhouse conversation and both men feeling betrayed and hurt. The Great Escape and Neal’s “What else can I do?” pose. Neal making Elizabeth an accomplice. Hee! Neal sitting by the pillar and talking to Peter, paralleling their first scene together in the pilot. Peter, Loren and Jonesy toasting Neal's return. :)
I know Neal doesn’t have many people he can turn to for help. Mozzie was doing his part arranging real estate deals and going through FBI records. But Neal wanting to go to Peter and Elizabeth’s home to talk and, later, Peter bringing Neal home to review the security camera footage...there’s something very intimate in that. I don’t mean in that way, though I’m certain numerous fan fics are now being written thanks to ‘Free Fall’, but Peter and Elizabeth’s house is just not a house to Neal, it's a home, a place Neal feels comfortable in and, perhaps more importantly, safe in.
Is anyone else oddly obsessed with the bakery? By that I mean, just what kind of assets does Neal have that he can afford to buy some prime NYC real estate that may not have even been for sale? I know the real estate market isn’t what it was, but it’s not that bad either. And I kind of wish he would keep it. They could all have a hang out. And serve June’s Italian roast! But Neal’s remark to who he thinks is Mozzie on the phone, “I told you to just sign my name”, likely means he’s dumping the property.
Did everyone catch the Psych promo/tribute to Hall & Oates? AWESOME! It's one of the few times I skipped the recording back to rewatch a commercial. I also liked USA's characters promo. Tiffani is so excited to be a mom! And Matt stating, "I'm from a red state." Very funny. Love ya, Matt. :)