As always, let me get the quibbles out of the way first.
The Thayer was stolen during the daily security tape swap. I'll assume the gallery doesn't actually still use videotape. I still occasionally say I'm taping a show rather than DVRing it. But wouldn't a high end gallery have some sort of continuous digital recording device? And how would anyone know exactly when the swap takes place unless there was an inside man/woman, which we know was not the case.
The scheme to steal the Thayer and fence it seemed clever (for the most part ;) and very involved. Yet, the Krugerrand heist was very simplistic. So much so that I thought Oswald would have been suspicious.
As a former art student, models are very seldom as attractive as that young woman. But I'm probably only one of a handful of people watching that would have been distracted by that. ;) I did, however, find the flirting amusing.
My most significant problem with the episode I'm going to put behind a separate cut at the bottom of the post. Because after the writers were asked about it on Twitter (it wasn't just me!), their answer made me view an aspect of the series, past, present and future, in a different way.
Now, for what I liked...
I've never seen Neal as happy as when he found out his work was being copied. Even Peter commented on his smile and the joy he was exhibiting. And Peter seemed happy Neal was so happy. So much so he didn't appear to mind the cause of it - Neal being recognized for his crimes. He also probably took it as a positive sign that Neal was beginning to move on from Kate's death.
Peter knew Neal had faked three MBAs and two doctorates, yet last week was surprised to learn Neal never finished high school. That seems...odd.
But YAY! to some Peter backstory. He studied four years of advanced math and two tears of accounting. Peter obviously has an excellent analytical mind, but I'd like to see some of the background put into use on the show.
Peter attempts, in turn and in a not-so-subtle way, to get Neal to reveal something about himself. Why did Neal choose to forgo school and come to New York? It's very Neal to dodge the question, but now I'm curious. Could Kate be the reason? Did he do it for love? With good looks, charm, intelligence and talent, Neal could have been a star student and likely succeeded at anything legal he chose to do. So we (and Peter) must wonder why Neal became the criminal he did.
When the student they arrested asked Peter if he knew how hard it was to make money as an art student doing art, Neal gave a look that indicated he could relate. His reaction could be a result of general knowledge and/or common sense, but could be more. Perhaps he wanted to be a legitimate artist. But something forced him to use his talents to make a quick buck, he found immediate success and it became too addictive for him to quit.
I LOVED the scene when Peter handed Neal the class syllabus. "They spent a week on me!" Which, really isn't that long in class time, but it made him so happy! "A new breed off forger. Technological virtuoso. Wow. With a classical artistic foundation. They got it." I'm having flashbacks to Sally Fields Oscar speech, "You like me! You really like me!"
The Antioch manuscripts (and, later, the carrier pigeons) are mentioned once more. I adore continuity.
Peter: "People have been known to fall for a pretty face."
Me: Imagining Neal/Peter shippers squeeing.
I wonder if Neal's "Go Team" was a Matt ad lib? It was a moment that played well along with last week's passing around the photo of Peter. Neal, as much as he may not be happy about being shackled to the FBI, also wants to be one of the "team".
During the class Q&A, Neal states he was caught due to a "momentary lapse in concentration" and "essentially I turned myself in". I don't believe this is entirely true. Yet, I believe Neal feels there is truth in his statements and there well could be. I've always suspected Kate somehow played a role in his capture. Not that she sold him out, but Neal may have sacrificed his freedom to ensure hers or she, at a minimum, was a distraction that allowed Peter to catch up to Neal.
Alex! I think both Moz and Neal were right as to why she didn't come to Neal for help. She is very leery of Neal's ties to the FBI, but Kate is still an issue and Alex didn't know how his grief was affecting him.
The slap! Alex was way to enthusiastic when she asked Neal if she could slap him. And she didn't wait for an answer. Wonder how long she's wanted/waited to do that?
I'm leaning more towards Neal and Alex having had a romantic relationship – or at least a romantic encounter. Again, in Neal's lies there is usually an element of truth. He tells Oswald and the students, "We have a history. We work well together." Both statements are true. He then continues on and says Alex was "something like" a former girlfriend. Of course, if Neal broke it off with Alex to be with Kate....WHY???
Michael Boatman! In such a small role. Since it's clear Russell knew Neal and is rather pissed off he sold him out, I'm hoping that means we'll see him again in the future.
Peter: "You don't like the van. Noted." Two weeks in a row we've had jokes about the van and Neal's eagerness to get out of it. While I initially just found his bristling at his surroundings humorous, it later occurred to me Neal spent four years locked up in a tiny cell. It makes sense that spending hours on end in a small, enclosed space and not being allowed to leave may bother Neal more than he is letting on.
While Neal's plan to help Alex/bust Oswald was not a bad one, he has to come to terms with the fact he can't leave out important details when working with the FBI. If Peter loses his job or gets demoted, Neal can find himself back in prison. I find I can be as frustrated as Peter by Neal's unwillingness to think things through and conceive how it will effect all involved. At the same time, I don't care for Peter treating Neal like a child. His remark, "I can't let my guard down for one day", I found to be condescending.
Moz in the FBI van? I did not see that happening anytime soon. I hope they inventoried after he left.
The Peacemaker! The most interesting aspect to Peter's performance, for me, was it highlighted a problem with Mozzie. Mozzie tends to overdo things. Subtle is not a concept he grasps. It's why I think he doesn't seem to ever pull a con off on his own. He may have many resources, but lacks the acting skill.
Alex: "Neal said you were the best." While it's a nice moment between Alex and Peter (and she really needs to come to trust Peter if she's to be a member of the team :), I felt Peter was touched by what Neal had said about him. Neal made the comment once before, to Tara in 'Threads', but it was out of ear shot of Peter. And Neal isn't at the point yet where he'd tell him directly.
The Kiss! Nicely played. Neal could have pulled back, but didn't. And it lasted just long enough to show there is an interest, on his part. But it's too soon and Alex respects that. "Kate's gone. The rest of us are still here." Alex lets him know she's available when he's ready. Hopefully, it's sooner rather than later. ;)
Neal now has the key. Peter and Neal are unaware they each hold a piece of the puzzle. Peter saying, "Maybe our friend knows where it is", had a nice double meaning to it.
I know some are bothered by the Neal and Peter withholding information from each other, but it makes sense to me. Peter knows Neal is likely to do something stupid if he shares too much too soon with him. Neal, given his past, is hesitant to open up to people. I do believe Neal trusts Peter more than anyone in his life, but completely? No, not yet. One could argue that Peter is not helping gain Neal's trust, but, again, he thinks he's doing the best thing for him at the present time. Plus, it's TV. Characters are always holding something back.
I was very confused by one point on my initial viewing. Oswald and the students knew a lot about Neal. Seemingly, everything about Neal. Yet, Peter informed Neal they were taking off the anklet for the job. This made no sense. I've been handwaving Neal being able to go undercover with relative ease, but I couldn't buy that a man who had studied Neal would be unaware of Neal's second escape from prison and subsequent deal with the FBI. Or is his deal hush-hush?
So I asked the writers during the episode, which is a mistake because they apparently aren't looking for questions while the episode is still airing. When Jeff Eastin and Joe Henderson hopped online during the West coast airing to take questions, someone else bugged by the seeming plot hole resubmitted the question. Turns out, yes, Neal's deal with the FBI is hush-hush. Which, on the one hand, helps explain the seeming plot whole in the episode, as well as some issues with other episodes. On the other hand, shouldn't this have been made clear in the pilot? And if Neal's work with the FBI is supposed to be secret, should he proudly be standing around for the arrests and outing himself almost every week? Even if those arrested don't assume he's working for the FBI, he is clearly working with them.