The episode had some rough spots (::cough:: Neal/Sara ::cough::), but I LOVED IT! It will definitely rank as one of my favorites.
Let's get the Neal/Sara stuff out of the way. I'm neither feeling nor understanding the potential relationship. Or at least I'm not getting it from Sara's perspective. Neal seems to be trying to move on from Kate, which is good, for both him and for us. Sara, as I mentioned in my last WC post, is convenient. I found it interesting Moz chose to use the same word when describing Neal's relationship with Alex. This tells me two things: Alex and Neal hooked up more than the one time we know of and Neal has a pattern. So, while Neal may be thinking of moving on with Sara, it doesn't mean she's going to be The One or even a replacement for Kate.
While I'm able to rationalize Neal's motives and behavior towards Sara, I struggle with Sara's towards Neal. She states, "I'm a big girl" (Oh, how I hate that expression. What woman says that? I went so far as to tell Jeff Eastin I never want to hear a woman on the show use the phrase again.), yet runs away heartbroken after seeing Neal and Alex kiss. I didn't think Sara seemed completely sold when Neal informed her his relationship with Alex was long over. She even told him she believed, contrary to his statement, he would lie to her. And their 'relationship' consisted of a grope session in the archives and aborted lunch and possibly more date. So, I would have preferred seeing her stand her ground and confront him on the spot rather than the prolonged awkwardness that followed.
Adding to my confusion is a sudden willingness, it seems, to change her life for a relationship with a guy who, let's see, she tried to put in prison, is still dealing with the death of the woman he planned to spend the rest of his life with, has an ex popping in and out of his life who he has unresolved feelings for, and still feels the pull of his criminal past. Neal Caffrey may be hot and charming, but that's a lot of baggage! I absolutely adored Moz and his attempt to get Sara to open her eyes and accept the reality of the situation. Hopefully, Moz is speaking for the writers who realize a relationship is a mistake.
I don't wish to be Neal's defender, especially since I feel he could have acted more honorably with both women, but I do believe he didn't intentionally set out to deceive Sara when he said it was over with Alex. Neal has zero impulse control. When he's been with Sara he's believed (or has worked very hard to convince himself) that he's put Kate behind him and has no lingering romantic entanglement with Alex. But when he's with Alex and they nearly die, he realizes how much she still means to him and acts on his feelings. Unfortunately, Neal's inability to think much past the moment likely means we're headed for a love triangle and DRAMA, but I'll take it over Sara having a beeline to Neal's affections.
Part of me wanted to see more of Alex, but would it have been necessary? (We already had too much focus on Neal/Sara, which took valuable time away from the Adler/Neal arc. More on that in a bit.) I love that when Alex and Neal are together, however briefly, we just know there is a whole lot of history between the two. Their smiles are always tinged with just a hint of regret. An indication that for every heist pulled together, there was also the opportunity for something more that didn't materialize.
Alex wouldn't seem to fit in with Neal's dream of a family and a house with a white picket fence. Or with what Peter and Elizabeth have that he longs for. But he and Alex do share a past, a passion for collecting beautiful things and making lots of money through questionable activities, and, perhaps most importantly, an understanding of each other. And underneath the tough, sassy, independent exterior, Alex has shown time and again she has real feelings for Neal. And while she's been hurt by him, she can't quite bring herself to put him in the past. She broke my heart a little when she told Neal he's "some wonderful fantasy that's just out of reach". :(
Wow. I talked about the relationship stuff more than I intended.
I can't say I was displeased with the resolution to the music box/U-boat/Nazi plunder/Adler storyline, but I wanted to see more of Adler, and Adler interacting with Neal, before he was killed off. That last part was a surprise. I expected Adler to be hauled off in cuffs, not killed and certainly not killed by Peter. I'd like to see Peter have to deal with the ramifications of his actions (both professionally and emotionally), but this is 'White Collar' so I, sadly, am assuming the incident will be glossed over.
Adler's plan to leave Neal, Peter and Alex tied up to drown while his henchmen stand by.....seriously??? The Bond films now get mocked for this crap! See: Austin Powers. And having Peter comment Adler was taking the archvillian thing seriously and Neal stating he was always dramatic does not mitigate the ridiculousness! They should have been shot and their bodies dumped.
The final moments of the episode are some of my favorite of the series. I love the implications of Peter's accusation, Neal's reaction to it, the subsequent discovery of the art and how we'll start Season 3 with the two at odds again. To be honest, I felt Neal was falling a little too easily into the good guy role and Peter was starting to trust him a little too much. I want Neal to be a better man, and believe he is heading in that direction, but it shouldn't be a quick and easy journey.
Should Peter have been so quick to accuse Neal? I wasn't happy with the way Peter confronted Neal, but, at the same time, it struck me as in character. Peter, as much as he wants to trust Neal, can't completely do it. And when he has extended trust, he's often been burned. So when he sees the piece of Neal's Chrysler Building painting (and how convenient it's a piece of that painting Peter just saw and not one Neal had in storage! ;), it's knee-jerk 'He's done it to me again!' reaction.
And think of how much drama and anger could have been avoided if Peter had confronted Neal with the 'evidence' against him? Neal may have had a few questions of his own, leading them to go back to Neal's apartment to discuss it, discovering the key together and Peter would then know where everything is and that Neal's claims of innocence were true. On the other hand, Matt absolutely nailed Neal's (fairly justifiable) anger with, "Prove it!" And then there was the awesome smile when Neal discovered he's seemingly the proud owner of a haul he could never have dreamed of having.
I really hope Neal decides not to come clean anytime soon. My dream is he continues to straddle the line between both worlds he's trying to live in - keep some of the art and other items for himself, while also working to return some of it to it's rightful owners. Because we know where the Nazis got many of 'their' possessions during WWII. :(
So who is Neal's benefactor? My initial instinct was Alex took everything. She was at the warehouse a day (I think) before Neal and Peter. She could have figured out which warehouse they were at. And I felt she left the FBI rather abruptly, not because of Sara, but because she had other things to do. She would have had time overnight to take the art and stash it elsewhere. But could she have orchestrated the move alone? I'm wondering if there is a mystery third party we will be introduced to next season who helped her. Or it might be Mozzie. It's more likely he would have known where Neal was storing his paintings as well as having access to Neal's apartment to take the Chrysler Building painting, the one Peter would recognize.
Other moments I loved.....
"When did that happen?" - Peter, upon seeing the closeness between Neal and Sara.
"Are you nine?" - Neal's response to Peter asking if he did the painting for his girlfriend. This coupled with Peter's obliviousness to the awkwardness between Neal and Sara at dinner proves he's very lucky to have Elizabeth.
Neal and Peter breaking into the u-boat and the unspoken exchange of affection between them.
The Alex/Neal Kiss. Do I need to say more?
Seeing at Alex at the FBI. And wandering around! And helping herself to coffee! It's as if the FBI is just gotten use to Neal's criminal friends dropping by to help. Hee!
Jones asking Neal if he was going after Sara or Alex and offering to be his wingman. :D I also appreciate that Jones genuinely seems to like Neal and doesn't judge him as others do. I would really enjoy watching that double date if it meant seeing them hang out together outside the office.
"When it counts, you can can trust him." Oh, Elizabeth, how I adore you and your wisdom. Her opinion as to Neal's trustworthiness was clearly included to contrast Peter's jumping to the wrong conclusion. I'm curious to see if it's Elizabeth who forces Peter to realize he made a mistake. It's not that Neal wouldn't pull a double cross, but not when lives are at stake.