Asta 2

White Collar (with Bonus 'Battlestar Galactica' mention)

I have a couple of general comments I want to put out there before getting down to the nitty-gritty of this week's White Collar. Since my first comment is only tangentially related to the show (and fairly brief) I'll forgo the cut tag.

I'd fallen victim, as many of us have, to the 'OMG, if I don't post right away, no one is going to care what I have to say!' mentality. And that may very well be true! ;) However, I've noticed both more frequently and more egregiously this is just not affecting the writing of fans, but of the media paid to talk about shows. More and more I see typos, lack of punctuation, words repeated or left out, all of which leads me to having to read a sentence numerous times to try and figure out what information they are trying to convey. When I watch a TV show late in the even, perhaps chat about it on twitter, and then am swamped with work the rest of the week it's going to be at least a few days before I can get around to posting my thoughts. If my intention is to be thoughtful, not have *too* many errors and, ultimately, have it be something I wasn't embarrassed to have written. I'm just feeling everyone - fans, bloggers, journalists, etc - in a rush to be heard too sacrifice quality for speed. Maybe that's why LJ has been so much quieter lately, It's not because we don't care anymore, it's because we still do. And we need to be passionate about a subject, and give it the time it deserves to be discussed, or else why bother?

My interest in White Collar has declined a bit. I have no plans to quit talking about it (you'll see) or be any more critical of it. In fact, it seems rather pointless to rehash plotting issues since it's clear the writers either aren't as concerned about them as we think they should be or don't really care all that much about them. I hope that doesn't sound bitchy or insulting. The WC writers are talented people. They produce good work. Sometimes, VERY good work. But I think the potential for greatness exists and it's being missed.

I'm also beginning to suffer from USA network fatigue. I loved the 'Blue Skies' brand they developed - taking ideas that worked, building on them and improving upon them. In many ways, I feel White Collar was the pinnacle of their brand. The series has a fabulous city filmed at to look it's absolute best. An attractive cast led by one of the most beautiful human beings walking the planet. Fabulous wardrobe. Snappy dialogue. And an ability to often leave the viewer in a better mood by the end of the hour. But as I tried, and failed, to get into Covert Affairs and Fairly Legal, and now watch promos for Suits and Necessary Roughness I'm feeling a sense of creative malaise. Characters are bordering on interchangeable and, more problematic to me, all the shows are looking alike. Network TV has numerous creative problems, but turn on CBS and catch even a glimpse of The Good Wife, Hawaii Five-O and CSI and you will not be mistake one for the others. So, at the same time I'm not feeling much incentive to watch USA's new series, it's also taking away from the ones I like.

But what really drove home that, while I like it quite a lot, White Collar will never reach all consuming devotion for me was BBC America releasing a new promo on Thursday, Jamie Bamber: Secretly British?!. Yes, Jamie Bamber has his own frakking network promo. Hear that NBC!!! And as soon as I watched it, even though BSG ended over two years ago, it hit me that nothing can make me as squeeful as seeing a new promo for the series and featuring Jamie.

Alright. Now that I've gotten that out of the way...

before moving on to the finer - and not so fine - parts of the story, I'm going to talk about the giant elephant in the writers room. Many fans, myself included, presumed the Nazi art was mostly, if not entirely, stolen from the Jews. That's a very sensitive issue to be dealing with on any show, let alone on one that takes such a lighthearted approach to it's material. Honestly, I couldn't imagine the writers, who are not known for their subtly, handling this subject well. It least it will be addressed, right?

When it wasn't acknowledged in the season opener, there was fan backlash and I'll admit to being disappointed and somewhat perplexed. When the success of the series largely relies on the charms of one character, a career criminal, who ultimately does the right thing for the wrong reasons and who you can't help but forgive, depicting him as gleeful at profiting from the deaths of millions may not be a good writing choice. I actually don't believe the writers are that insensitive. At best, they were being naive not to consider this scenario wouldn't occur to viewers. At worst, they considered it, and hoped we'd ignore it and just enjoy whatever stories they decide to tell. Yeah, that didn't happen.

At this point, further comments on the matter need to reference information provided by Jeff Eastin and others on Twitter, and thus are somewhat spoilery, so I'll talk about it more at the bottom of the post.

Even with the controversy over the Nazi art, my biggest issue with the episode was with Neal - AKA The Smug Bastard. There was something, for me, a little off about Neal. I had felt his outrage at Peter in the closing moments of Season 2 were justified. He hadn't stolen the art. And after working (semi-hard) to try and not do illegal things (when it's convenient for him), there was Peter accusing him of betraying his trust and faith and calling him a liar. I could even cut Neal some slack for having some lingering feelings of anger. But once he was guilty of all of Peter's suspicions, and seemed to disregard the hurt and damage he would leave in his wake for Peter (his career would be ruined) and Elizabeth. Peter's career would be ruined and Elizabeth...I was SO excited she and Neal had a scene together. Elizabeth has always defended Neal, or at least played the devil's advocate, and she had worked to dissuade Peter from believing Neal stole the art. How does Neal replay her friendship? By lying to her and manipulating her. :(

After the episode ended, I thought I would be more upset with Neal than I actually was. But Bomer played the new, darker Neal so well. I enjoyed watching Matt's performance, even as I didn't enjoy watching the implications for Neal. That's not to say that Neal has been ruined for me nor has my appreciation for the character diminished. However, I have some concerns on where Jeff & Co. may be headed with him and his arc.

There were issues with the story and, as I mentioned above, I'm not going to dwell too much on them. But as someone with an art background, I feel compelled to say there is absolutely, positively NO WAY Neal could pull off the forgery he did in thirty minutes or less (was that a nod to pizza delivery service? ;). Putting aside even the best forgers can't work that fast, oil paints take a long time to fully dry. And the paint would be interacting with a 21st Century environment (Neal was working in a basement). So the whole scene was ridiculous to me.

Lawrence was the most underdeveloped bad guy to date. What did I learn about him? He likes to fence and steal stuff. :/ And if Lawrence was a suspect in the theft six years before, and the feds were closing in on him to the point he had to flee the country without the money, then why was he surprised to find a fed (Jones) was watching him upon his return? And why return now? It can't be the statute of limitations is up because he's risking arrest by re-entering the country. Unless he came back under an assumed name. But then why return to his old haunts? And if you are someone in a rush to leave with your ill gotten gains, do you blow sixty million out of an air vent? Get a ladder! I'm being hyper critical of the plot again, aren't I? Moving on....

I do like that there is now tension and trust issues between Neal and Peter. I don't worry it will ruin the 'bromance', in part because I'm sure the writers will only address the strain in the relationship as needed. I had felt they were becoming too close too fast. On the other hand, Neal's eagerness to skip town with the art and willingness to destroy Peter's career in the process was a little confusing given he was torn about leaving at the end of Season 1 AND that was with the love of his life.

I also felt both actors played their final scene together so well. Neal stating, "You had judgment on speed dial" and "you kept my severed tie", were delivered with the perfect mix of simmering resentment and sarcasm. Peter, in turn, may claim to want to call a truce, but it was clear his heart wasn't fully in it. And Neal knows it. Yet, earlier, when Neal realized Peter hadn't turned the piece of the painting over to an FBI lab, he assumed it was to protect him. (I like that Moz was quick to point out Peter may have ideas of self-preservation.)

There were some nice, small touches throughout the episode I appreciated. The writers finally addressing Neal is off his anklet as much as he is on it. Neal's part federal/part self-imposed celibacy is over...and that we didn't see it. That is NOT a slam against Sara or Hilarie, accept Hilarie is getting thinner and thinner and I'm actually worried about her health and I worry about seeing skin and bones. :( Elizabeth's previous gallery experience finally came into play. Cindy returned from wherever she's been hiding (although I could have done without the odd scene in the gallery lobby). LOVED the kitchen remodel, but was horribly distracted by the fact it happened without explanation. The construction should have been addressed over several episodes and it would have been great to see Peter react to the inconvenience of having construction workers getting in his way at home. And nice touch to have Neal leave his FBI ID on the table, along with Neal Caffrey. That made me a little sad.

Oh, and if, like me, you thought the show looked especially fabulous (I adored that long shot of Moz and Neal walking down the street), the (former?) director of photography, Russell Fine, directed the episode.

Back to the stolen art.....After what I perceived to be a lot of questions on Twitter (and some anger directed at the writers), Jim Campolongo, one of said writers, finally addressed the controversy. He referred to the list of 22 paintings that Diana informed Peter was found at the crime scene and how the list established the art was taken from museums. Um, no, sorry, not really. A log of items being transported on the sub does not prove where those items came from. Even if there were notations the art came from museums, it's not like the Nazi's never lied!

Jim went on to remind us of the music box. I interpreted this as pointing towards the art being stolen from Russia. Still, this could be a problem.

Later that evening, as I slept, Jeff Eastin did a Q & A with the fans and tweeted this in response to THE question: "Treasure came from looting of Leningrad art & museums during Barbarossa, same as music box. Moz & Neal know it's not blood art."

Again, I say, claiming it all came from Russia is still problematic. But my bigger issue was how do Neal and Moz know this? And if they do know this, couldn't there have been a brief exchange between the two to let the audience know they know? So, you know, we don't think they are assholes who have no issue profiting from the slaughter of others?

Putting the ownership of the art controversy aside for a moment, what really came through in Jeff's Twitter Q&A is that, a day after the episode aired, he was explaining quite a few plot points to the audience. At least the ones following him on Twitter. At which point I began having Ron Moore podcast flashbacks.

As many of you know, even though I don't have the same issues with Ron as others have, one thing I was always critical of was his bad habit of telling us, in his podcasts, what he was trying to convey rather than actually showing it to us on screen. And Jeff Eastin is falling into the same bad habit. I mean, we were supposed to think back to the Russian music box and extrapolate from that that great works of art found on a Nazi sub fleeing Germany was actually art stolen from Russian museums? We didn't just get that? Really? ::head desk::

He also hinted that this will be explained (more explicitly?) later in the season. I'm guessing as they now write it in because they've now realized a) the audience didn't get any of this and b) some viewers were enraged.

And a reminder for my fellow Battlestar Galactica/Jamie Bamber fans: BBC America relaunches the show at 10pm est tonight, following the mid-season finale of Doctor Who, before moving into it's regular time slot of 7pm est next Saturday. There will be an open discussion thread at jamiebambernews if anyone feels inclined to chat about the show. :)
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Psst! - wrods repeated or left out I normally wouldn't point out a typo, but given what you're writing about here I thought you might want to know. :)

And nice touch to have Neal leave his FBI ID on the table, along with Neal Caffrey. That made me a little sad.

A tiny part of me wondered if that meant Neal Caffrey was just another alias.

willingness to destroy Peter's career in the process

I watched the ep again, and this has really ruined the show for me. He's planning on destroying Peter's career while all the time talking about their partnership etc. I can't believe he ever meant it all the other times he's said things like before now. It invalidates their relationship to me, which was my reason for watching the show. :(

But my bigger issue was how do Neal and Moz know this? And if they do know this, couldn't there have been a brief exchange between the two to let the audience know they know? So, you know, we don't think they are assholes who have no issue profiting from the slaughter of others?

Yes! The only way I can maybe see it is if Moz had seen that list Diana and Peter had, and it said where the pieces were from and he told Neal about it. If that's the case we needed to know that however. One line could have cleared it all up! It all makes me think they're covering their asses at this point.
Oh, irony! But if you only knew how many technical issues I had with this post, that's nothing! ;)

I wondered if Neal Caffrey was another alias too, but I'm not sure the writers would go THAT far. And I didn't see any fan speculation about it. I just assumed he was going to have to create a new alias and he'd never be able to use his real name again.

The show hasn't been ruined for me, but it was a WTF? moment. Maybe Neal figured he'd make it up to him later somehow? But that also means Neal doesn't know Peter as well as he believes if he felt he could do anything to make up for Peter's lost career.

I go with the "covering their asses" theory at this point. :/

A tiny part of me wondered if that meant Neal Caffrey was just another alias.

I won't go into detail until I'm sure you've seen the ep, but there was another reference to his name this week which now makes me wonder too. But maybe they're trying to confuse us?
I saw that, and thought the same thing. I'm in the midst of a RL crisis, including panic attacks, and haven't been able to get on the computer for more than 5 minutes at a time. I bought the season 1 and 2 DVD for the price of one right before the 3rd season started. There's a deleted scene on the 2nd season one that deals with this. I didn't know if you wanted to know what it says or not. I;m eventually going to make a post about it, but have no idea when I'll be up to doing that.
I always enjoy reading your thoughts. I relate to what you said about wanting to post quickly. For me, it's not about being first since most of the shows I've watched lately and are already on DVD. They've been discussed for years before I get to them. For me, it's about just getting the post done while I'm thinking about it before I lose the impetus and because I'm so busy. I do wake up the next day sometimes and see the typos and incoherence and thank goodness for being able to edit a post!

As for White Collar, I don't have USA anymore and sadly had to give the show up. (And the beautiful Matt Bomer.) I like USA too. It gave me repeats of Xena long ago along with the original La Femme Nikita series. It also had the 4400 at one point. I have to admit thought, something happens after a while. The 4400 switched times too much. I liked White Collar but not quite as much toward the end of the second season. I think it can be great but as you say, isn't great often enough for me to look for it on download.

I'm kind of speechless about the stolen art plot. A plot should stand on its own without any further explanation. Not everyone is going to watch or read a podcast or interview and shouldn't. It shows a lack of sensitivity that the writers weren't explicit about where the art came from and were ignoring the audiences' experiences and possible conclusions.

I'm really surprised the writers wrote such a thing. White Collar really is mostly a light-hearted show and when it's good, it's very good at that.

Do you think this plot mistake will alienate viewers from the show? Will you continue to watch it?
I find my thoughts come to me at odd times and I write the entire post in my head. Then, later, when I have some time to put it all down in a post I've pretty much lost interest. :/ I'm trying to change that pattern. This post was actually written over three days and I focused on a different part each day.

I don't understand writers who put out a product that can't stand on it's own *and* don't seem to have a problem with that. It's one thing when a writer doesn't realize it. I know how it is to be so close to a project and spend so much time thinking about it you start missing things that would be obvious to someone looking at it for the first time. I've even heard writers admit they made a mistake and only realize when it's too late they weren't as clear as they should have been. Or edited a scene without foreseeing how it could cause a problem later on. But this isn't the first time the WC writers have had to explain what they intended and Jeff Eastin is failing to see it's a problem. When Diana showed the list of paintings to Peter, my only thought was, "Oh, this is how they'll find out Neal has the work", not, "Oh, so it was all stolen from museums and not the Jews!" But, of course, Jeff never seemed to think the Nazi/Jew angle would cross our minds. O_o

I know some viewers who have stated they are done with the show. Whether or not they stick to that, who knows? I still plan to watch. There are still things I very much like about the show. Especially Mr. Bomer. ;) But Matt is not Jamie and Jamie is the only actor who I would sit through anything for. So, yeah, if I see a dramatic slide in the quality of the series overall or I just can't stomach the writing any longer then, yeah, I'd quit.
I don't understand writers who put out a product that can't stand on it's own *and* don't seem to have a problem with that.
I don't get it, either. I'd be really embarrassed about that in my own writing and that's about fanfic. I mean seriously? And they really thought a modern audience would not think about the Nazis and the Jews? I do not understand that.

Jamie is the only actor who I would sit through anything for.
Awww! I tried with L&O:UK but got stymied by the accents and different judicial system. I tried with Alessandro Juliani both with Smallville and something called Human Target on Fox. Human Target was the end of me following my favorite actors around. It was a really bad show. I only now follow people on good shows. You're lucky, Jamie seems to be cast in good shows!
Jamie is the only BSG actor that compels me to see EVERYTHING he is in. I try with Tricia and Mary, but I apparently don't like them quite enough to sit through the crap. I am looking forward to Mary starring in Major Crimes. I've quite enjoyed her on The Closer and I'm crossing my fingers for a reunion with a certain co-star. ;-)

Tahmoh was in an episode of Human Target. It was a very small role and he was killed early on. Quite odd to see him go from BSG and 'Dollhouse' to blink and you miss him.
Sadly, I had held a tiny hope some point early in the episode that Neal & Mozzie were going to drop the stolen art at some kind of art reclamation center, although that would get Neal in so much trouble - it would have fit in with Ell's 'do the wrong thing for the right reason' statement. I was disappointed by Neal in this episode. The rapid painting scene didn't work for me, either.

I did enjoy a good bit of the episode, such as Neal's reluctance to leave, and Mozzie's recognizing that they had a good situation as they were.

The Phoebe Cates con was odd but at least it seemed like a plausible distraction.

Frankly, I'd have been happier if the Nazi plunder arc had been finalized in the last season, as it is a sensitive subject and it doesn't seem it's being handled in a sensitive way. As you say, the origin of the art seems immaterial to the characters.

I don't particularly want the series to get edgy or dark; I enjoy its light-heartedness. Peter is right to not trust Neal fully, because Neal is, at heart, a criminal, and enjoys what he did/does. Neal's brand of criminal behavior isn't vicious or malicious (generally), and he doesn't intend to harm anyone. But he's not going to walk the straight and narrow like Peter, except when he really feels it necessary. Peter expecting him to, I don't know, 'grow up' as if Neal's exploits are youthful larks isn't actually acknowledging that Neal is what he is, and is what he wants to be.

Neal enjoys conning people. Neal enjoys working with Peter. These are not mutually exclusive, but neither does it mean that Neal should have the same appreciation for the law as Peter, or share his every value. I think sometimes that is what the show is telling us Peter wants: for Neal not only to not con people, but to not want to do so, as well. And I can't see that ever happening.
I never thought they'd drop the art off anywhere, but I had an idea of how I would have liked to see them handle the story...which I don't want to talk too much about because I may use it if I ever tackle a long gestating fic. ;)

The indifference/insensitivity/ignorance bothered me most of all. I completely understood Neal's reaction in the closing moments of S2, but I expected more from him (and Moz) when he came down from the high and considered where it all could have originally come from.

Peter expecting him to, I don't know, 'grow up' as if Neal's exploits are youthful larks isn't actually acknowledging that Neal is what he is, and is what he wants to be.

That's a really good point. I do believe Neal is capable of change, of giving up the life he had/has, but NOT because of Peter's scolding or threats or believing if he works with him long enough it will change him. Peter wants a certain life for Neal, and no matter how good his intentions are, he really can't force his beliefs on Neal or anybody.

But why I think Neal can change is because he envies what Peter has with Elizabeth and longs for it himself. In S1, Neal talks about running off with Kate and having a life together and Moz asks him if he wants the house and picket fence? When Neal acknowledges he's thought about it, Moz tries to tell him that's not who he is. He can't give up the life he has. I have to disagree with Moz. Neal not only could, but would, under the right circumstances and with the right woman. And it his search for Kate, followed by the drive to bring her killer to justice, that consumed him and stopped him from moving on. He gave up thinking about the score of a lifetime when he needed the FBI. But as soon as that was all behind him, he went right back to the man he was when Peter first arrested him. It's interesting psychologically, but I don't have much faith the writers will be addressing it.
Later that evening, as I slept, Jeff Eastin did a Q & A with the fans and tweeted this in response to THE question: "Treasure came from looting of Leningrad art & museums during Barbarossa, same as music box. Moz & Neal know it's not blood art."

Presumably, while researching the period, Eastin missed the part where Operation Barbarossa killed millions of Russians? (I am referring to the ones killed by the German army, not by Stalin, who certainly added greatly to the total himself.) I mean, I guess it's better than art stolen from the Jews, but I'm not sure Neal and Mozzie scheming to sell off into private hands art that belongs to an entire country of people who suffered very brutally during that invasion is completely okay?

Anyway, I hear you with the USA fatigue. It's starting to feel like factory product. HBO has a really hilarious promo that skewers the formula and it's funny because it's true.
I have very little faith the plot was thought all. Jeff has talked about wanting to end the season with that shot of Neal, smiling, surrounded by all the art. I think he then worked back to try and tie it to Adler and Kate's death and, at the same time, set up an arc for the third season (which he didn't have a plan for - only the first two). My guess is over the hiatus they scrambled to fill in some blanks, but a) stolen art from any group of dead people is not going to go over well and b) they failed to give us ANY information as to where the art originally came from in the episode itself. Obviously, the show's main focus is on Neal and Peter, but that doesn't exempt the writers from telling a solid story.

I'll try USA's new shows. I'm a firm believer in you can't be bitchy until you've actually watched it. ;) 'Suits' looks more promising to me, but, at the same time, it involves a law firm and a get bit ragey when shows don't depict lawyers and law firms properly (See: my reaction to 'Fairly Legal').
Truthfully: People should pay more attention to the details. (And the writers to the damned timeline). Did nobody hear the big speech from Alex about her grandfather and the art the Nazi gathered in eastern europe?

And I don't think that Neal is "darker". It was high time to remind the audience that Neal, for all his charm, is a professional con man. Why should he be able to resist this treasure?

But on a positive note: He obviously isn't too keen to leave his life often did he tell Mozzie "we take out time, we do it right" in this episode? twice? trice?