It only took one viewing to add 'Payback' to my list of favorite White Collar episodes. Still there was one thing that bothered me about the episode. But only one thing! The incredibly contrived fight between Peter and Elizabeth. Peter might as well have been holding up a sign stating, “Something BAD is about to happen to me.”
We've seen Peter and Elizabeth disagree. They occasionally get mad. They may even get a little terse with each other. But Peter and Elizabeth do not fight. El even says so later on. So, not only do they fight, they fight about something dumb – dry cleaning. Neither Neal nor Moz (and I'm guessing most viewers) can understand how they had a fight over dry cleaning. It just doesn't make sense. Not for these two and likely not for most couples married as long as they have been. To make the situation even stranger, El was fine with picking up the dry cleaning, it was a non-issue, until Peter decided he had to make it an issue.
I guess what irks me most is the writers didn't believe Peter's kidnapping was enough. That we, the audience, after watching nearly two seasons of Peter and Elizabeth's awesome, loving relationship, couldn't comprehend how devestating the kidnapping would be without the added angst of an unresolved argument and not saying, "Hun".
And does he really have a desire to be the perfect husband? When he forgot about their anniversary in the pilot I think it was clear that ship had sailed. OK, I'm moving on....
Though it was Peter's kidnapping at the center of the plot, and he had his fair share of the screentime, it felt like a Neal-centric episode. Maybe it's because while Peter was (mostly) the Peter we've known all along, events led to Neal showing actual character growth. I couldn't help but think Season 1 Neal, however fleetingly, would contemplate cutting the anklet and running while the entire FBI and countless law enforcement agencies were busy looking for Peter. But it was clear it never entered his mind. Granted, it was Peter whose life was at stake, but would he have done less if it was Diana or Jones or that agent that sits two desks from him? I don't think so. Neal wasn't just trying to be a team player, he was a member of the team.
And it was a team, for the first time, working without Peter. While Jones has always been pretty accepting of Neal, Diana has been wary, if not hostile, and Hughes, while regarding Neal as an asset, most often approaches him with exasperation. But Diana came to Neal's defense and Hughes actually gave him a pat on the shoulder for a job well done. Neal's like a kid when it comes to compliments and rewards. Earlier in the episode, he lit up when Peter compared him to Cary Grant. Neal may not always get along with Diana and Hughes, but he does respect them and that they took him into the fold really meant something to him. Neal's feeling more and more a part of the team and liking it. He's moving away from his former life, the one he thought he wanted, and embracing it.
I'm still not sure where they are headed with Kate. I'm one of those people who is not completely convinced she's dead. I'm also the suspicious type who feels a show doesn't keep bringing up a dead character unless they have plans for the character, especially when we get reminders they are dead. Maybe I've just watched too many soaps in my lifetime. There was no body! Anyway, again, moving on.....
Within the context of the episode, I liked how they handled Neal's lingering feelings for Kate. He realizes he has to move on, but he's obviously not quite there yet. I'm sure the squees of Neal/Peter fans could be heard round the world when Neal gave up Kate's engagement ring to get Peter back, but what I most appreciated was Neal had the opportunity to reclaim the ring and (nearly) told the truth about it. And it wasn't just about saying goodbye to Kate and the life he envisioned with her, it was about him choosing to do the right thing. The honest thing. To the tune of 2.5 million dollars. That's amazing progress for Neal Caffrey.
Mozzie was pretty awesome too. It was interesting to learn it wasn't that he disapproved of the idea of Neal settling down and having a family, it's that he didn't approve of him doing it with Kate. 'Forging Bonds' didn't flesh out her character significantly, or show Kate and Moz interacting enough for us to fully understand why he would disapprove, but Moz knows Neal as well (if not better) then we do so I assume he has the same reservations as us. And that he can envision himself as Uncle Mozzie - and shares this with Neal - says he not only wants Neal to see his dreams fulfilled, he sees himself as part of them.
Moments of awesome and a couple "Really?" moments....
Was Keller moved into a visitors room? I'm no prison expert (thankfully), but a) that cell seemed far too large and b) I don't recall ever seeing a table and benches in one in TV or film before. And wouldn't all of Keller's perks be a clear sign of prison corruption that a visiting FBI agent may report? Neal had obviously wheeled and dealed for some 'comforts' when he was in prison, but Keller's accommodations were far too excessive. Or was it an attempt to depict Keller is more corrupt than Neal? Um, he's a murderer, duh!
I loved that Elizabeth presumed Neal had sent Moz over to check up on her, only to discover he took it upon himself. And the kiss on the head! How sweet!
Following Peter doing some, imho, extreme ribbing of Neal about Keller, Neal confronts Peter about it by stating Peter's sarcasm goes up in direct proportion to his stress levels. Scenes that annoyed me before make so much more sense now! I can see the pattern! Or at least I can make myself see it the next time Peter annoys me. ;)
While I didn't care for the argument, I loved Stachmo's reaction to it. He left the room! Best Satchmo scene to date.
I'm not buying Neal's depleted all his resources. I know he had legal fees during his trial and the bakery would have cost quite a bit (But shouldn't it also be making him some money? Why do they torture me by never mentioning The Greatest Cake???), but I think back to the pilot and it was established Neal told Moz and Kate two different stories as to where he had stashed everything.
The Hug! That wasn't a surprise, but it was unexpected. Does that make sense? What I mean is, we know there is a strong bond between the two, but I wasn't expecting them to so overtly share their feelings. And since I've often felt Neal has needed a hug, it made me happy. :)