I think, as viewers, if we love a show, we want it to be awesome every single week. Some series have come close to doing that. The Wire jumps to mind. If not for the second season, Friday Night Lights would be a contender. But most series encounter mediocrity or flat out misses at points in their runs. Ultimately, because I consider myself a creative person (in theory, if not always in practice), I look at my own work, a mix of things to be proud of and.....not so much. TV series have deadlines and often a limited time to put out a product. So maybe 'Burma' was disappointing and I only watched it once (!!!), but I still love the characters and people who make the show.
Obviously, more of the episode didn't work than worked for me. Plotting has never been the series strong suit and I'm usually OK with that, but, in 'Burma', it's as if I could feel the writers struggling for a resolution to the plot. Neal's plan hinged on a smoking box put into a diplomatic pouch. REALLY??? And Peter's stalling at the car felt like a time killer. I don't recall ever getting antsy during an episode before.
Neal having issues with his father and it, perhaps, leading him down the criminal path - I've been expecting the revelation for awhile. It ended up being handled better than I expected. And dirty cop was a bit of a twist. I liked Neal knowing his mother lied about his father dying a hero in order to protect him (I also liked it implies Neal had at least one parent who cared about his well being). What I didn't care for was Neal's seeming belief he was born bad. That his father's blood tainted him and he had no choice. First of all, Neal is way too smart to believe that crap and he certainly doesn't need Peter to tell him he has free will and the ability to make the right choices. My other problem is, Neal has shown no remorse for his actions. The lack of remorse was not a result of 'I have no choice I was born this way', but that he found something he was good at, was having fun doing it, and would likely still be doing it if not for prison and the possibility of going back. I liked that Neal had made that choice, but, now, through Peter, was seeing he could use his skills for good instead of 'evil' and contemplating the man he wants to be once his parole is up. To suddenly throw in Neal believes he's fighting his nature, not only does that lack sense, but it's an element to his story we don't need.
And while White Collar will never be praised for it's subtly (again, I'm OK with this), the anvils were falling all around the characters as Neal's family history came to the fore. Maybe the diplomat's estrangement from his son could trigger something in Neal, even if the circumstances were vastly different, but we also had to have Mozzie's birth parents come up, Peter's dad and Diana's dad. It was Dadapalooza!
This all came right after the flashback episode, which seemed odd. Shouldn't backstory reveals be spread out? Unless, with only three more episodes until the seasons' end, Neal's father HAD to be discussed. Did Neal's mom tell him even a bigger lie? Could his dad still be alive?
As much as I love the banter on this show, it was excessive this week. In certain scenes, the walk and talk in the teaser for instance, it was as if they were trying to outdo each other with witty retorts rather than have a real conversation.
My final criticism, and I hope you are sitting down for this, enough with Neal taking off his shirt. Matt recently stated he'll take his clothes off when it's necessary for the story. So Neal had to change his shirt in front of Mozzie while talking about his father? They couldn't cut to the next scene and believe we'd accept Neal changed clothes before going off to work with Peter? Or, if you're going to gratuitously show some skin, at least be honest about it.
What I liked:
On a superficial level, the entire cast looked very pretty! In their clothes! ;) Neal's shirt/vest look is becoming a favorite. Clinton can work a scarf. And Diana can make ridiculous model hair not look quite so ridiculous.
The team coming together in the basement. They all knew it was a setup and were well prepared for it. It's the first time I didn't mind Neal having a gun drawn on him because he knew his life was in no danger. And I may have squeed a bit when Diana arrested the guy for attempted murder of an FBI agent. Now, I know that was, in part, to protect Neal's cover and also, if actual charges were to be filed, it would just be for attempted murder, but how Diana said it and the non-reaction to it by the rest of them made it feel like he was thought of as one of them. :)
Mozzie's glee at the FBI providing him with top of the line equipment to create fake gems. (Though, I find it hard to believe the FBI would allow him to keep said equipment as payment.)
Diana having an expanded AND integral role in the plot. Revealing earlier in the season that she was the child of a diplomat proved important. Her personal experience, along with knowing ranking people in other U.S. agencies, were of huge importance to this case. And while it probably should have been Elizabeth if Tiffani were not MIA due to her maternity leave, I really enjoyed watching Diana call Peter on not stopping Neal and his plan. Like he hasn't cuffed Neal to furniture before! ;)
Oh, and "Mr. Satchmo". Not only did I love Neal coming up with the alias (wanna bet he uses it again?), but Diana throwing it back at Peter for turning her into a model. :D