Asta 2

White Collar: Hard Sell

I was eager (to put it mildly) for the return of White Collar. I'd read positive reviews for 'Hard Sell'. But I've learned over the years (thank you The X-Files, Buffy and Alias) not to set expectations too high. Tonight's episode far, far, far exceeded my meager expectations.

First, I have to note the new opening credits. I like them. I didn't have strong feelings about the old credits, but they felt like an afterthought to me. Good credits should help tell the story, the new ones do, and in an impressively short amount of time.

Second,The Slash. Or, if you prefer, the Epic Bromance, courtesy of zegeekgirl. ;) Short of Peter giving Neal mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, I'm not sure how much further they could have taken the scenes between the two.

I had read that the reveal of what happened between Peter and Kate would happen later in the episode. This was a great decision. It allowed us to watch Neal's trust turn to doubt. And his slow burn become barely contained rage. (While giving Matt the opportunity to create a multi-faceted performance.) Had we known from the start what had transpired, the tension would have been non-existent as we waited for Neal to discover he tied himself up in knots for nothing.

The most interesting part, for me, was learning Neal should have trusted his first, gut instinct. Neal told Mozzie, "Fowler has to be lying about Peter." And such was the case.

The dialogue was perhaps the best since the pilot. There's the humor we've come to expect in every episode ("You could sell light switches to the Amish.") and the pop culture references (thank you for mentioning Thunderball because it immediately came to me mind), but as soon as the case is underway every line of Neal's is laced with a double meaning. His words, along with an inability to not quite keep his emotions in check, tip Peter off that something is not right between them. Neal has been held at gunpoint and shot at and has not broken his cover, yet he can't keep it together in Peter's presence.

Elizabeth played a small role in the episode, but she cemented two of my beliefs. Peter does, in fact, tell her everything. And she's able to spin the truth as well as Peter and Neal. Peter may have met with Kate, but he was never holding her.

I'm also sure her statement to Neal, "Peter is the best thing that ever happened to you and your smart enough to know that", launched a thousand fanfics tonight. ;)

Not that there weren't other moments to inspire fic. On second viewing, Neal and Peter arguing about the breathing device, Neal giving it to Peter, and Neal possibly sacrificing himself was a *bit* extreme, especially when you consider it's only the eighth episode of the series. But we needed the "Peter, I trust you" moment. Peter has questioned Neal's loyalty in the past. If Peter hesitated revealing his conversation with Kate because he was unsure of the value Neal placed on their partnership and friendship, that moment left him with no doubt.

As for that conversation, I wonder if what we saw is exactly what he told Neal. That Peter believes Neal is smart is neither a shock to us or to Neal. That Peter believe Neal is good, we've suspected and likely so has Neal. (Neal may be a con man, but it doesn't make him a bad man.) The "We're friends?" comment I would think would elicit a response from Neal along the lines of, "We're partners?", in 'All In'. But it's Peter's statement to Kate, "I"m tired of watching you twist his heart around," that left me going, "Do he really say that to her?" "Did he really repeat that to Neal???" Peter's worried about Neal's heart being broken and he verbalized that?

And Peter's chat with Neal ends with Peter telling Neal that Kate never loved him like Peter loves him. Or something along those lines. ;)

I actually do believe Kate loves Neal. I have no proof of it, but I can't believe Neal could have been so wrong about their relationship. Or that the writers would be quite that cruel. My guess is she loved him, just not as much or she cared more about the money than him.

I never thought Peter was the bad guy, but I had concerns as to how the writers were going to resolve the mid-season cliffhanger. Even on repeat viewing, it hung together pretty well. Peter has the pin/ring as do hundreds of FBI agents. And Fowler began to set Peter up after Peter began investigating him. But one question remains. Where did the photos come from? Peter said a copy showed up on his desk the same day as Neal received his copy. Neal received the photo from Mozzie. Could Mozzie have slipped a copy to Peter? Why would he do that? Why would someone else give a copy to Peter and Moz to pass along to Neal? Could it be Kate? Did she feel the only way she could free herself from the mess she is in (she seemed genuinely fearful) was to get Neal *and* Peter to work on the case?

Random observations:

Neal arrived at the FBI office after Peter. I thought Peter usually picked him up in the morning. Is the office in Neal's two mile radius?

Loved the "Boop" after Neal put the tickets in the agent's pocket.

Nick Halden is back! But, sorry, it's hard for me to believe that alias or any other is going to work with Neal Caffrey's photo plastered on the front page of the paper. That's one huge plothole the writers and audience will have to ignore for the run of the series.

Was that a law library/bar they were in? I work in a law firm and we have after hours get-togethers, but they take place in an office or conference room.

I want to know if Neal dressed Peter for his undercover assignment. In lieu of an official explanation, I will except fic. :)

Neal doesn't have the music box. I did not see that coming. It's a nice arc to have running through the back half of the season and it allows for the quest for Kate to be somewhat put on the backburner.
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YES. Bromance trumps doe-eyed girlfriends! XD

I think you've hit on an important point re: Kate that it's entirely likely she does care about Neal a great deal, just not in quite the same way that he feels about her. In fact, I would kind of question any later developments on the writers' part to have her turn out to be pining just as much as he is despite everything that's happened. It seems to make better sense this way, having Neal's continual belief in what they had (or what he thought they had) be his Achilles heel.

Agree that it was a nice resolve of the cliffhanger, although the cynic in me now has my eyes trained on Fowler wondering... is he really the big bad, though? Or is there someone pulling *his* strings. And is that someone also in the bureau, and if so how far up does this go? Curiouser and curiouser.

She really is doe-eyed, isn't she?

I think Peter wants to believe Kate doesn't care at all about Neal because it would be easier if it were true. He's been trying to convince Neal to move on (yet, at the same time, stay put) since Neal's release from prison. If Peter can make Neal see the situation as he does his life would be easier and Neal's would be, to his mind, better. But the fact that Kate warned Peter about Fowler - seemingly because, like you, I suspect there is someone else involved and that may be who she was referring to - means she does care.

Neal believes, or wants to believe, Kate is The One. Maybe Kate thought she was lucky to be with a smart, charming, handsome guy who promised her the world, but feels there are others out there who could make her just as happy.

I don't believe the show is going to go the way of Alias or Chuck with big, wacky conspiracies going on within our government, but I do wonder if by the end of the season we will discover that Fowler is not the guy behind it all.
I've been suspending my disbelief over the fact that Neal can go undercover with such ease. Surely people in the biz know who he is. And then, after palling around with Peter and running a dozen FBI scams, wouldn't the word get out?

That said, fantastic episode.
Up until 'Free Fall' I was willing - and able - to hand wave Neal not being recognized when he's undercover. We don't know if his first arrest made front page news. We don't know if his fellow con men knew his name, but not his face. And the FBI does make sure he uses an alias when going undercover. Neal is only Neal when investigating a suspect who knows they are being looked at by the FBI.

But reminding us in the teaser that Neal *just* cleared his name and his image is still fresh in the minds of anyone who reads the paper or, I would assume, surf the internet makes it impossible to believe that a guy searching various outlets for companies whose stock is on the verge of skyrocketing doesn't realize Nick Halden is Neal?

I asked one of the writers about this on Twitter. I'm curious to see if I get a response. ;)

Love your icon, btw. :)
By the way, I got a response to me questions and they will be addressing Neal's notoriety thanks to his front page photo spread. ;)
So I'm surprised with how much they're leaving on the table with the Neal/Peter (b)romance! Even though they did stop short of mouth-to-mouth. Heh. Between this and Sherlock, the slash goggles are everywhere lately.

I really liked the way they tore the trust down and built it back up, with a really nice arc and some reveals in there. We didn't find out immediately the second it came back what was up with the meeting and that worked very well. I was pleasantly surprised by Elizabeth knowing the truth about the Kate meeting (not that it should surprise me--I'm sure Peter does tell her everything. I believe they have one of the great TV marriages, like FNL's the Taylors).

The Fowler as the ring guy reveal was not that interesting so I suspect there is a more menacing bad guy to be uncovered. Especially since it's kinda early to find this out. And you know, he's played by Biff from the Back to the Future movies. LOL.

I loved all the angry Neal double entendres while they were shooting, and I thought it was fantastic that he doesn't have the music box (which is...very intriguingly connected to the Romanovs?). Very classic way of setting up another obstacle.

I do think Kate loves Neal and that she's truly scared and being forced into this situation somehow. That warning was heartfelt. I imagine it'll be some time before we get more on what's really going on with her. I also imagine the end of the show could be Neal having to choose between her and Peter somehow.
the slash goggles are everywhere lately.

It's like the new black! ;)

I really liked the way they tore the trust down and built it back up

And they did it in one episode rather than drag it out for the rest of the season. The characters acted like intelligent adults. Neal seethed for a couple days, but instead of playing games and making himself miserable believing the worst, he confronted Peter. And Peter, in turn, told him what happened and his feelings about Kate (which I suspect may be even more important down the road).

I believe they have one of the great TV marriages, like FNL's the Taylors).

I hadn't drawn that comparison, but I agree!

I thought it was fantastic that he doesn't have the music box

And it's not the music box itself that is valuable, but whatever is inside it. I wonder if they find the box in the finale and whatever is inside drives the arc in season 2?
The slash was EPIC. Even the first phonecall when Neal was pitching the sale to Peter sounded like flirting :P

I am a cynic so I think Kate does not really love Neal. I never got a good vibe about her right from the start.

Elizabeth is awesome!
I've been thinking about the conversation between Neal and Peter in the pilot in which Neal begs Peter to allow him to go to San Diego after they wrap the Ghost case. Peter tells Neal he needs to move on and Neal says something along the lines of, 'What if she's The One?' I think that's what Neal and Kate's relationship will boil down to. Neal believes Kate very well could be the love of his life, while Kate just sees him as a great guy who she cares about, but is not her soul mate.

Elizabeth IS awesome. And is perfectly fine with Neal dating her husband! ;D
I have started downloading white collar and that is entirely your fault.

You really have a type, hu? Anyway, just watched the pilot, and I liked it :)
Belated reply, but...HEE! So, have you watched beyond the White Collar pilot? I'm waiting for someone to say they can't fathom why I'm so enamored with the series. ;p

I swear, I didn't know I had a type until know! Jamie is shorter. And I like Hugh Jackman too and he's blond!