This was the second episode in a row where I felt the plotting was becoming stronger. I only had two issues!
First, if Neal was brought into the case because of it his connection to Gless, wouldn't Peter, the agent who arrested Neal and likely had dealings with Gless himself, be a part of the investigation? He shouldn't be the lead investigator, but involved on some level. I understand the the writers wanted to separate Neal and Peter to show just how strong (and successful) their partnership had become, but the reason for splitting them up was shaky.
Second, I don't care if Neal is an ex-con and a CI rather than an agent, Agent Rice could not make the call to put Neal up as bait. And I doubt a supposedly up and coming agent concerned with her career would do so without consulting with her superiors.
Other than those points, I felt the story held up well. Initially, Rice's shutting Neal down, demeaning him and telling him to wait in the car threw me since she asked for his assistance on the case. But when her plan got blown to hell I realized she never wanted Neal's help, it was just a ruse to get him to the meeting with Wilkes.
While I knew Neal would be OK by episodes end, there was genuine tension through the first half of the episode. Wilkes was a menacing villain, more so than Keller who, while also a killer, showed no intent to harm Neal, whereas it was clear Wilkes wanted Neal dead. We've now had two episodes where we've been exposed to 'Anti-Neals'. Yet, these are men that Neal chose to work with at various points in his life. Eventually, he broke away from both because of an unwillingness to physically harm others for his own bottom line. But it's an interesting reveal that he did open himself up to working with such shady and violent individuals.
For those who don't already know, 'Front Man' was written by one of the Burn Notice writers. There were definitely elements of the script (especially two innocent people nearly being gunned down) that reminded me very much of the other show.
There were lots of wonderful moments between Neal and Peter. My favorite humorous exchange:
Peter to Rice: "You can't tell, but, right now, deep down, I'm petrified"
Neal (gleefully): "Nice!"
But as far as showing how far they've come and what the future may hold, I loved the final scene between the two. Neal walked away from the crime scene without his ankle monitor, but Peter didn't doubt he'd see Neal again. Granted, he could tell himself Neal didn't have the music box or Kate and thus would not be running off, but Peter would not have been quite so calm about the disappearing act a few months ago. What really struck me though is that knowing what Neal is up to, rather than threaten him with prison, Peter simply told Neal what his options are. Peter, much as a parent would, has learned threats don't seem to have much affect on Neal. And while Neal often acts like a twelve year old, he is an adult and needs to make his own choices. So Peter plays out for Neal what will happen should he follow through with his plans. Neal usually brushes off what Peter says; this time Peter's words seemed to make him think.
My other favorite scene was Neal and Moz playing the zig-zag con at the airport. I actually thought Moz did a better job getting into character. ;) His remarks about his partner having it easy because of the blue eyes, dazzling smile, and thick hair made me laugh, but I also felt there was some truth to what Moz was saying. We've seen Moz and Neal are equal in the brains department, but Moz lives in Neal's shadow - though his paranoid side probably prefers that.
Continuity! I love it when series remember it's history and there were so many references to past episodes. Since Peter is the "The Suit" and Elizabeth "Mrs. Suit", Rice becomes the "The Pant Suit". June and Moz finally play Parcheesi! (Flip of the Coin) Peter and Elizabeth share a lunch of deviled ham sandwiches. (The Portrait) Neal tells Wilkes, "You lied. I lied. It's like a dance." (Pilot)
June seems to ship Neal and Alex. :)
Neal questions where Alex's distrust comes from and Alex responds that it involves what happened with Kate. Coupled with their constant circling of each other, it makes me wonder if Neal chose Kate over Alex. Which forces me to ask, "WHY???"
I thought Peter pocketed the strand of Alex's hair for DNA testing. But maybe he just didn't want to drop it on the floor?
The Pink bags. I'm not sure which was more distracting: the product placement, the idea of Neal doing so much shopping in the middle of the day, or wondering why no one is questioning how he can afford the new wardrobe on $700 a month?
Hughes continues to be more awesome than I ever expected him to be - from defending Neal's ability to take care of himself to swiftly putting Peter back in charge of the case to mastering the Double Finger Point. :)
Favorite Neal Line: "Whatever I did, I have proof I didn't do it."
Favorite Moz line: "I get the apartment."
I watched the webcast of the live Q&A with Matt and Tim this evening. If you missed it and care to watch, it can be found HERE. Tim informs Matt of some of Jeff's plans for Season 2 so be warned if you wish to knwo NOTHING about next season.
Matt and Tim seem to genuinely be friends and are very funny together. And they both sung! Which was AWESOME. But it hit me that when I watch Matt and Tim I also see Neal and Peter. The line blurs between actor and character. That's not a bad thing, it's just strange for me. I've watched countless interviews with the Battlestar Galactica cast and I've never seen the character, only the actor. Granted, some of them were playing genocidal robots which makes it easier to not see them as their character. I guess I need to get use to being in a fandom where the characters are actually people I could encounter in real life.