It occurred to me that the last time I had fairly significant issues with a story it was another Jeff Eastin penned episode, 'The Portrait'. I don't know what or if that means anything. It's not like he's treading Ron Moore territory at this point. ;p
If last weeks episode of White Collar was awesome, this weeks episode I'd deem good, with some very good character moments, particularly Moz. 'Bad Judgment' stumbled where episodes before have stumbled - the plot. It's as if, in breaking the season, a corrupt judge story was suggested, one too weak to sustain an episode, and with no other idea as to how to contain Fowler, a decision was made to tie his story to that of the judge's.
I watched again this morning just to see if a less sleepy me could make more sense of it and...not really. The story is overly complicated as well as convoluted. Too many plot points are the result of 'Hey, it's a good thing that just happened', otherwise Neal and Peter would be sitting around staring at each other. Not that that is a bad thing.
While I'm used to the stories on White Collar being resolved quickly (and I allow for dramatic license on this because who wants to see a mortgage investigation drag on for weeks?), this particular investigation and the subsequent pacing of the episode felt frenetic as we jumped from roadblock to roadblock and location to location. And, in what I believe is a first time occurrence, we had a POV problem. In the previous episode, Neal or Peter or both are involved in every scene. In 'Bad Judgment', only the audience was aware of the conversation between Clarke and Fowler.
Characters of the week seldom receive a lot of character development, but they were especially thinly drawn here. The Sullivan's troubles merely provided a way for Peter and Neal to get to Fowler. We can assume the judge was motivated by greed, but how did she start down that path and get involved with Fowler? And the retired detective seemed like an afterthought, a character created when the writers realized they had no way to get Neal and Peter from Point A to Point B in some instances.
Other tiny things that bothered me...Elizabeth checking with a neighbor rather than the cable company about the cable guys unexpected appearance. There's no tailor available in the middle of the night to create a uniform for Neal, yet Moz could get a ranger's uniform and patch for the delivery company. Moz having the listening equipment with him when that didn't seem to be part of the plan.
Now that I have my complaints out of the way (and if you didn't know me during my BSG days, you have no idea how critical I can get ;), on to the good stuff.....
I really enjoyed seeing Moz have such a large role in this episode. We knew he had skills, but he's more talented than I gave him credit for. Besides his loyalty, I can see why Neal keeps him so close. It appears Neal is even having him review the cases he is working on. I'm guessing Neal is not telling Peter about that.
But most awesome was Moz's bonding with Elizabeth. Or should I say "El". Hee. Moz went from "Mrs. Suit" to "We" (Peter: "Are you a team now?") to using her nickname in record time (I loved Peter's reaction to the El/Moz exchange). First Neal ingratiated his way into the Burke's life and home, now Moz has. The two 'families' are blending into one. (Neal's walking Satchmo, next thing you know he'll be cooking dinner. :)
Interestingly, Neal points out to Peter that Moz's ease around Elizabeth is an indication Moz trusts her. This is after knowing Elizabeth for just a few days. Meanwhile, Moz has known Kate for years and doubts her motives and feelings. He's even eager to join Peter for the "Kate Intervention". (And has Peter had Moz's number all along or did Moz perhaps give it to Elizabeth?)
There were plenty of moments that reinforced Neal and Peter's relationship is once again on solid ground. In the opening scene, the two fall into step and exchange stories of how their weekend went. Neal takes Moz's advice and asks Peter to pass a message to Kate, which Peter does, trusting Neal won't run, whatever the answer may be. And Neal risks his freedom for Peter because neither Peter or Hughes, at that point, could protect him if he got caught in the judge's office.
If the Bromance was toned down down a bit from 'Hard Sell', there were some lovely moments for the OT3ers. Elizabeth 'borrowing' Neal (well, his pallet). Peter's comment, "My wife is inviting you to lunch. The good thing is I can come along too." (Funny thing is, this scenario has already appeared in a fanfic!). And Elizabeth, once more, subverting the law for one of the men in her life. ;)
Other little moments I enjoyed:
Neal's throwaway line while pitching Moz's cleaning services, "He does a great job on my place." It would seem Neal has had June's house swept.
Elizabeth to Moz: "I don't think he bugged the dog."
Moz to Elizabeth: "Amateur!"
Neal's declaration that he would have bribed Peter himself if he knew he could be bought so cheap.
Elizabeth worked as the assistant manager of an art gallery when she met Peter. Given Neal's background there could be an interesting past/future connection there. What is we learn they almost crossed paths years before?
Peter asking Jones to drive Moz home and Moz quickly realizing Peter's ulterior motive.
Hughes is really growing on me as a character. I never disliked him, but he's a much cooler boss than I expected him to be. He broke a lot of rules to help Peter.
It was fun to see everyone hang out together at the Burke's (Accept Lauren who was MIA without explanation. Would it have killed them to mention she was on an assignment?) and Elizabeth popping in at Neal's but it all the meetings felt a bit rushed.
Peter: "You have copied my signature."
Neal: "Let's focus on the crime at hand."
Where the heck was that new room located in the Burke house? It wasn't upstairs so was it on the lower level?
If Kate didn't send the postcard with "D5" written on it, who did?
Could Kate's father, Robert, be alive? Why lead Neal to the grave to find an origami flower that apparently means what they think it means? Here's a thought I had: what if Neal was an apprentice of Robert's? What if both Neal and Kate believed he was dead (or Kate could have known he faked his death, it really doesn't matter), but Kate has discovered he isn't, is a prisoner of Fowler/The Man with the Ring and the price for his release is the music box? It would be good way to explain that, yes, Kate does, in fact, love Neal, but she also loves her father and is willing to sacrifice her relationship with Neal to save Robert.
Or I could be completely wrong. :/